Beginning his contrition tour on the "Today" show Friday morning, former "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams told Matt Lauer that the past four months had been "torture," while blaming his ego on what now appears to be a long line of embellishments.
He stopped short of saying he intended to mislead -- specifically referring to the downed helicopter story that led to his six-month suspension in February -- but told Lauer: "This came clearly from a bad urge inside me. This was clearly ego-driven, a desire to better my role in a story I was already in. That's what I've been tearing apart, unpacking and analyzing."
He added, "It had to have been ego that made me think I had to be sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else."
Lauer pressed Williams on the contents of an NBC investigation into his reporting that discovered other instances of embellishment -- which also claimed that those had usually occurred on late night shows or in other public forums. Asked to comment on this or to "correct the record," Williams said:
"I would like to say what has happened in the past has been identified and torn apart by me and has been fixed. Going forward there will be different rules. I know why people feel the way they do. I am sorry for what happened here. I am different as a result and I expect to be held to a different standard."
Lauer sought to get Williams to parse the difference between lying -- obviously an offense that can lead to an anchor's firing, especially if Williams had knowingly told lies on the air -- or "conflating," a word Williams used in his own on-air apology four months ago, referring to the mixing of real facts and made-up elements. But Williams said he had not intentionally lied: "It's not what happened. What happened was the fault of a whole host of other sins -- my ego getting the better of, to put myself in a better light, to appear better than I was. That was the process here . . . "
Williams returns to NBC's air mid-August as breaking news anchor for MSNBC -- as many have observed, the equivalent of being shipped back to the minor leagues. But, he said, "I'm very happy to be coming back. I'm happy to have a job."