New York Times reporter fawns over ‘role model’ Brian Williams: ‘You are an icon for journalists’

New York Times reporter fawns over ‘icon’ Brian Williams as he leaves MSNBC

New York Times reporter Peter Baker tells MSNBC’s Brian Williams how much he admires him as Williams prepares to leave the network.

MSNBC’s Brian Williams, who was famously caught embellishing tales about his own experiences and earned the moniker “Lyin’ Brian” in the process, was praised as a “role model” by a New York Times reporter on the penultimate episode of his program. 

Williams is set to host his final edition of “The 11th Hour” on Thursday night and Times reporter Peter Baker, a regular guest on the program, joined the show on Wednesday to heap praise on the outgoing anchor. 

MSNBC’s Brian Williams was famously caught embellishing tales about his own experiences and earned the moniker "Lyin’ Brian" in the process.  (REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

“I didn’t want this opportunity to pass without saying what a great treat and great honor it has been to share this journey with you,” Baker told Williams. “You are an icon for journalists, you have been a role model for all of us, and you are a class act all around.”

The New York Times scribe might feel Williams is an “icon for journalists,” but it’s safe to assume young reporters won’t be encouraged to follow in his footsteps anytime soon. 

In 2015, then the anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” Williams was suspended and ultimately demoted from the flagship newscast after getting caught embellishing events while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. He falsely claimed he was aboard a helicopter that was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, but it turned out his aircraft was following the one that came under fire. 

The scandal made national news and other stories that Williams appeared to embellish were eventually unearthed. Baker’s newspaper reported in April 2015 that “an NBC News internal investigation into Brian Williams has examined a half-dozen instances in which he is thought to have fabricated, misrepresented or embellished his accounts.” 

New York Times Reporter Peter Baker called Brian Williams "a role model" for all journalists. 

Williams was suspended for six months without pay and demoted to MSNBC upon his return, where he has reinvented himself as a liberal pundit but has had difficulty shaking the crushing scandal.

When former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was caught staging his own “official reentry” into normal society after recovering from COVID, Fox News contributor Joe Concha labeled it Cuomo’s “Brian Williams Iraq moment.”

The debacle resulted in additional public relations nightmares for NBC, as the network shook up its executive ranks during the aftermath and brought in Andy Lack to help clean up its image. However, Lack was part of the team that refused to publish Ronan Farrow’s award-winning reporting on now-disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, another stain on NBC’s reputation.

Former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams was demoted to MSNBC after he was caught embellishing stories.

Lack also came under fire at the height of the #MeToo movement for not allowing outside counsel to investigate who knew about Matt Lauer’s sexual wrongdoings. Instead, NBC News allowed General Counsel Kim Harris to conduct the review, and she eventually declared that Lack and NBC management was completely oblivious to Lauer’s lewd behavior. Lack has since left the company. 

Meanwhile, a report published by the New York Post last month indicated Williams is ditching MSNBC because he feels underappreciated. Until recently, the network has relied on Williams’ reporting for critical breaking news events and election coverage. Viewers were surprised to find Williams absent from MSNBC’s Virginia election coverage earlier this month, with the left-wing trio of Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid and Nicolle Wallace hosting instead.

Williams’ MSNBC farewell comes amid significant ratings woes for the liberal network that has struggled to attract viewers from the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults age 25-54. 

Fox News’ Yael Halon contributed to this report. 

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