Brian Williams Signs Off MSNBC With Stark Warning About America's Future

Longtime news anchor and MSNBC host Brian Williams has left the network after nearly three decades, signing off on the final episode of his popular nightly political talk program The 11th Hour with a stark warning about America's future.

Williams, 62, first announced his plans to leave in November, saying "following much reflection," he chose to step down upon the completion of his contract. He said in a memo to colleagues at the time that in his 28 years with NBC, he had covered eight Olympic Games and seven presidential elections.

"What a ride it's been," said Williams in a three-minute farewell speech on Thursday night, as he thanked his friends, family, co-workers and viewers.

"After 28 years of peacock logos on much of what I own, it is my choice now to jump without a net into the great unknown," he said.

He concluded his final The 11th Hour broadcast by saying that his "biggest worry" is for future of the United States.

"The truth is, I'm not a liberal or a conservative, I'm an institutionalist," Williams told his viewers. "I believe in this place and in my love of country I yield to no one, but the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods, it's now at the local bar and the bowling alley, at the school board and the grocery store, and it must be acknowledged and answered for."

Williams continued by criticizing elected officials "who swore an oath to our Constitution" who he believes have "decided to join the mob and become something they are not, while hoping we somehow forget who they were."

"They've decided to burn it all down with us inside—that should scare you to no end, as much as it scares an aging volunteer fireman," he said.

The state of the nation is "unrecognizable to those who came before us and fought to protect it—which is what you [viewers] must do now," Williams added.

He also took the opportunity to reflect on his time at the network, saying "it has been and remains a wonderful life."

"Where else, how else, was a kid like me going to meet presidents and kings, and the occasional rock star?"

Williams' The 11th Hour debuted at the height of the 2016 presidential election. Prior to that, he was the anchor of the NBC Nightly News program, but was suspended for six months in 2015 without pay after it was found he exaggerated a story about a helicopter ride in Iraq.

Williams, who hasn't yet publicly talked about his future plans, suggested that it won't be long before he returns to the industry.

"I will probably find it impossible to be silent and stay away from you and lights and cameras," he said. "After I experiment with relaxation and find out what I've missed and what's out there."

"Every weeknight for decades now, I've said some version of the same thing: 'Thank you for being here with us,'" Williams concluded. "Us, meaning the people who produce this broadcast for you. And you...Well, without you, there is no us.

"I'll show myself out until we meet again. That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you for being here with us. And for all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, goodnight."

Full transcript of Brian Williams' sign-off below:

After 28 years of peacock logos on much of what I own, it is my choice now to jump without a net into the great unknown. As I do, for the first time in my 62 years, my biggest worry is for my country.

The truth is, I'm not a liberal or a conservative, I'm an institutionalist. I believe in this place and in my love of country I yield to no one, but the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods, it's now at the local bar and the bowling alley, at the school board and the grocery store, and it must be acknowledged and answered for.

Grown men and women who swore an oath to our Constitution, the elected by their constituents, possessing the kinds of college degrees I could only dream of, have decided to join the mob and become something they are not, while hoping we somehow forget who they were. They've decided to burn it all down with us inside—that should scare you to no end, as much as it scares an aging volunteer fireman.

To my co-workers, my love and thanks, and I say again, everyone I've worked with has made me better at what I do.

To my family, love and thanks doesn't begin to cover it, but now I have the time to better express it.

My friends know who they are, no one's been blessed with better friends.

To the guests on this broadcast, as you heard the nice man say a few minutes ago, it's always been about you, otherwise I'd be staring into the camera for an hour, five nights a week, and nobody wants to see that.

You are The 11th Hour and will continue to be The 11th Hour. This is where I thank you however for being so great for explaining these last five years.

As a proud New Jersey native, this is where I get to say regrets—I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

What a ride it's been. Where else, how else, was a kid like me going to meet presidents and kings, and the occasional rock star?

These lovely testimonials that I can never truly repay, make me hyper aware that it has been and remains a wonderful life. It's as if I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning in Bedford Falls. The reality is though, I will wake up tomorrow in the America of the year 2021. A nation unrecognizable to those who came before us and fought to protect it—which is what you must do now.

My colleagues will take it from here. I will probably find it impossible to be silent and stay away from you and lights and cameras. After I experiment with relaxation and find out what I've missed and what's out there."

Every weeknight for decades now, I've said some version of the same thing: 'Thank you for being here with us,' us, meaning the people who produce this broadcast for you. And you...Well, without you, there is no us.

I'll show myself out until we meet again. That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you for being here with us. And for all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, goodnight.

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams
NBC News Anchor Brian Williams speaks onstage at The New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation present the 8th Annual Stand Up For Heroes Event at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 5, 2014 in New York City. 
Brian Williams has left the network after nearly three decades. Monica Schipper/Getty Images