Brian Williams will take brief leave of absence from ‘Nightly News’

Brian Williams said Saturday he will take a leave of absence from his anchor role at “NBC Nightly News.”

“It has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” Williams said in a statement.

Williams said he would take himself off the broadcast “for the next several days” but would come back.

“Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us,” he wrote.

The program’s weekend anchor, Lester Holt, will fill in for Williams during his absence.

Williams’ announcement comes amid mounting criticism over the anchor’s admission that he misled viewers with a story of being in a helicopter hit by enemy fire during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

NBC News President Deborah Turness said Friday the company would launch an investigation into Williams’ reporting.

“As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired,” Turness wrote in a memo to NBC staff.

The head of NBC News’ investigative unit, Richard Esposito, is slated to lead the probe, which will examine Williams’ story about the downed helicopter as well as claims he made while reporting on Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Williams, the long-time anchor and managing editor of NBC’s flagship news program, apologized to viewers Wednesday and recanted his account of being aboard a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2003.

Tom Brokaw, Williams’ “Nightly News” predecessor, also weighed in Friday to dismiss a report that Brokaw had privately called for Williams’ dismissal.

“Brian’s future will be decided by him and the executives of NBC News,” he said in an e-mail to the New York Times.

NBC’s next move is further complicated by the fact that there is no heir apparent for Williams’ anchor spot on the “Nightly News.” The show is the nation’s most widely viewed television news program, with more than nine million nightly viewers.

Turness left Williams’ fate an open question in her Friday memo.

“We’re working on what the best next steps are — and when we have something to communicate we will of course share it with you,” she wrote.