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Williams, who currently anchors MSNBC’s 11 p.m. hour, “has informed us he would like to take the coming months to spend time with his family,” MSNBC president Rashida Jones said in an email to staff Tuesday evening.
Williams has been in contract negotiations with MSNBC in recent months, and a source familiar with those talks said that he expressed a desire to move out of the 11 p.m. time slot.
“This is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another,” Williams said in a statement. “There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere. For the next few months, I’ll be with my family, the people I love most and the people who enabled my career to happen.”
“Brian’s time at NBC has been marked by breaking countless major stories, attracting leading journalists and guests to his programs, and most especially, great resiliency,” Jones added. “He has built a fiercely loyal following for The 11th Hour and we and our viewers will miss his penetrating questions and thoughtful commentary.”
Williams, who served as chief White House correspondent early in his career, began his anchoring career on MSNBC in 1996, and also anchored the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News. He became that evening news program’s weekday anchor in 2004 following the retirement of Tom Brokaw.
A reliable and regular No. 1 in the ratings, Williams’ run on Nightly News came crashing down in 2015 after exaggerations and falsehoods were found in some of his reporting, including reports from Iraq, and from New Orleans after it had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
NBCUniversal ultimately decided to keep him at the company but removed him from the Nightly News anchor desk, handing the network’s signature evening newscast to Lester Holt, who continues to lead the program today.
Williams rejoined MSNBC in 2016 in what was initially described as a temporary role meant to run through the 2016 presidential election. That temporary program became The 11th Hour, where Williams has held court (in addition to duties anchoring major breaking news events) since.
The departure of Williams means that MSNBC will need to rethink a sizable part of its weekday evening lineup in 2022. The channel’s highest-rated host, 9 p.m.’s Rachel Maddow, signed a new contract with NBCUniversal earlier this year, one that will see her produce documentaries and other content across the company’s platforms. It will also, however, see her step back from the daily cable news grind, although specific details are still to be determined.
Jones said last month that she was in “no immediate rush” to find a successor to Maddow, noting that the host’s role at the channel had been the focus of regular news coverage in recent months.
“I expect the speculation to continue, I expect the rumors to continue. It comes with the territory,” she said, adding, “Those who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know.”
With holes to fill at both 9 p.m. (at least a few days a week) and 11 p.m., Jones, who took over the channel early this year, will be able to put her own stamp on MSNBC’s lineup.
“The 11th Hour will remain in good hands, produced by the best team in cable news,” Williams said Tuesday.
Read Rashida Jones’ memo below.
After nearly three decades as an award-winning journalist and anchor at MSNBC and NBC News, Brian Williams has informed us he would like to take the coming months to spend time with his family. He will be signing off from The 11th Hour at the end of the year.
Brian’s time at NBC has been marked by breaking countless major stories, attracting leading journalists and guests to his programs, and most especially, great resiliency. He has built a fiercely loyal following for The 11th Hour and we and our viewers will miss his penetrating questions and thoughtful commentary.
Please join me in expressing our deep gratitude for 28 years of devoted service to our viewers and wishing him the very best.
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