Brian Williams will make his first appearance on The Jay Leno Show Oct. 28. Williams’ appearance has been on the books for some time, and he’ll keep that commitment despite being in Afghanistan, where he will anchor Nightly News beginning Wednesday.
He'll conduct a segment live via satellite from an American-controlled compound in Afghanistan, and will have U.S. military personnel with him for the remote.
“I hope we can find something at least mildly amusing to talk about while living in sleeping bags and eating the delicious military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) three times a day,” Williams wrote in an e-mail message over the weekend.
The Nightly News anchor was among the personalities Leno said would be “contributors” on his 10 p.m. program. But Williams is not the first NBC News personality to appear. Today’s Matt Lauer and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews were both on the show last month.
Williams last traveled to Afghanistan in July 2008. The eighth anniversary of the war in October provided an entry point for more coverage from the region. (See related article, "News Networks' 'Surge' in Afghanistan") The ongoing policy debate about troop strength and the increase in violence has kept coverage of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan on the forefront.
“We’ll be living at a forward operating base [in sleeping bags; nighttime low temperatures 33 to 36 degrees at 7,000 feet elevation], and we’ll be in summer-like temperatures elsewhere,” Williams wrote. “It is unforgiving, vast territory, and there are people looking to kill and capture Americans. Everyone on this trip to Afghanistan has been shot at already. All of us in the industry know full well it’s not a ratings bonanza. We certainly don't do this for popularity or sensationalism; we go there for the story.”
Williams’ trip comes as Oct. 26 marked the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in more than four years, with separate helicopter crashes killing 14 Americans. The first crash happened in western Afghanistan, where a helicopter went down after leaving a firefight with insurgents. Ten Americans were killed: seven members of the military and three civilian workers, according to The Associated Press. In the second crash, two U.S. Marine helicopters collided over Helmand province, killing four service members.
NBC’s Richard Engel reported on the crash on the Today show that day and noted that he was supposed to be on the first helicopter. “I was supposed to be on one of those helicopters that did in fact crash,” he said. He did not elaborate, and an NBC News spokesperson declined to comment further.