Pete Williams (journalist)

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Pete Williams
Pete Williams at Aspen Security Forum.jpg
Williams at the 2017 Aspen Security Forum
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
In office
May 22, 1989 – January 20, 1993
Nominated byGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byJ. Daniel Howard
Succeeded byVernon A. Guidry Jr.
Personal details
Louis Alan Williams[1]

(1952-02-28) February 28, 1952 (age 68)[2]
Casper, Wyoming, United States
Alma materStanford University
OccupationJournalist, spokesperson
Pete Williams as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs at a press briefing, 1991

Louis Alan "Pete" Williams (born February 28, 1952) is an American journalist and former government official. Since 1993, he has been a television correspondent for NBC News. He served in the administration of President George H. W. Bush.

Williams was raised in Casper, Wyoming; his mother was a realtor and his father was an orthodontist. "Pete" is a nickname he has used since childhood.[3] After he graduated from Stanford University, where he had originally studied engineering but subsequently changed to journalism,[4] he began his career in local news with the Casper, Wyoming, television station KTWO and its eponymous radio station in 1974.

In 1986, Williams became press secretary for U.S. Representative Dick Cheney and followed Cheney to the United States Department of Defense as Cheney became United States Secretary of Defense to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs in 1989 during the George H. W. Bush administration.

Williams became a correspondent for NBC News in late March 1993,[5] after leaving the Defense Department; his main areas of news coverage for NBC include the Department of Justice and Supreme Court.

Early life and education[edit]

Pete Williams was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming, where his mother "Bennie" was a teacher, and later a realtor, and his father Louis was a dentist. He was one of three children.[6] Williams graduated from Natrona County High School in 1970.[7] He was a member of his high school's award-winning debating team,[8] and also won an award for public speaking.[9] He was also active in his school's Teenage Republicans club, and a member of the National Honor Society.[10]

Williams graduated from Stanford University in 1974.[11] While at Stanford, he studied Journalism and History, and spent a year studying in London in a Stanford-sponsored overseas program.[12]


Early journalism career[edit]

From 1974 to 1985, Williams was a reporter and news director for the Casper-based KTWO television and KTWO radio stations.[13] Williams also served as director for the Wyoming Future Project from 1985 to 1986.[2]

Press secretary[edit]

In 1986, Williams was hired as press secretary and legislative assistant in the staff of U.S. Representative Dick Cheney. Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs in 1989, following Cheney's appointment as United States Secretary of Defense, and worked as press secretary of the Defense Department.[13]

While serving as a Pentagon spokesperson, he was accused of allegedly working to cover up the large-scale irregular military activities that had occurred during the US invasion of Panama under the pretense of apprehending Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, which was later featured in the documentary film The Panama Deception (1992).[citation needed]

Later journalism career[edit]

Williams prepares a report in front of the Supreme Court of the United States in 2012.

NBC News hired Williams in March 1993 as justice correspondent based in Washington, D. C., to cover news from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court.[13]

During the Bosnian War, Williams initially denied that there was any evidence of genocide or war crimes, claiming that "we do not see evidence of a program of systematic or massive killing of innocent people". A video clip of the actual statement is featured in the 1997 film Welcome to Sarajevo.[14]

As NBC justice correspondent, Williams has interviewed United States Attorneys General John Ashcroft,[15] Alberto Gonzales,[16] and Eric Holder,[17] as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray.[18]

In covering the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings for MSNBC and NBC News, Williams earned praise from various media analysts for choosing to report events in a restrained, cautionary fashion. In contrast with the Associated Press and CNN, Williams refused to report a later-retracted claim that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested a suspect for the bombing.[19] For Politico, Dylan Byers commented: "On a major story that has been defined by inaccurate and conflicting reports and wild speculation, Williams has been calm, diligent and correct."[20] Brian Resnick of the National Journal wrote that Williams showed "restraint in not jumping too far into conclusions."[21] The phrase "NBC's Pete Williams" became a trending topic in the overnight hours of April 19, 2013.[22]


Williams has received three national news Emmy awards.[23]

In 2012, the University of Wyoming awarded Williams an honorary Doctor of Letters, in recognition of his many contributions to journalism. He was praised for his "sound judgment, fair mindedness, impeccable ethics, and dedication to service."[24]

Williams was named the recipient of the 2018 John F. Hogan Award, presented annually by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). The Hogan Award, named after the association's first president, is given in recognition of "an individual's contributions to the journalism profession and freedom of the press..." Williams was chosen because "...Over the course of his distinguished career, Pete Williams has served the public first as a government spokesman and then, for the last 25 years, as a reporter covering government,” said Scott Libin, current Chair of RTDNA. "His insight and understanding of power and politics have proven hugely valuable to the viewers of NBC News."[25]


  1. ^ Nominations before the Senate Armed Services Committee, first session, 101st Congress, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990, p. 350
  2. ^ a b Sciolino, Elaine (February 8, 1991). "Voice of the Pentagon Delivers Press Curbs With a Deftness Honed on TV". The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  3. ^ John Hanchette. "Pete Williams in an Unlikely War Celebrity." (Little Rock) Arkansas Gazette, January 21, 1991, p. 10.
  4. ^ Pete Williams. "Why I Chose Stanford." NBC News, video, May 24, 2018
  5. ^ "People." (Olympia WA) Morning Olympian, March 19, 1993, p. 8.
  6. ^ "L.J. 'Bennie' Williams." Casper (WY) Star-Tribune, November 25, 2011, p. 5.
  7. ^ Hewitt, Pete (February 25, 1991), "Defense Spokesman Pete Williams Is the Pentagon's Stand-Up Guy", People, 35 (7), p. 58
  8. ^ "NCHS Debaters Win at Buffalo." Casper (WY) Star-Journal, March 7, 1969, p. 9.
  9. ^ "Casper Wins BHSC Forensic Tournament." Rapid City Journal, February 14, 1969, p. 6.
  10. ^ "Boys' State Delegates Named." Casper (WY) Star-Tribune, May 19, 1969, p. 6.
  11. ^ Bush, George H.W. (May 2, 1989). "Nomination of Louis A. Williams to Be an Assistant Secretary of Defense". The American Presidency Project.
  12. ^ "Williams: From Newsman to Pentagon Spokesman." Casper (WY) Star-Tribune, February 6, 1991, p. 3.
  13. ^ a b c "Pete Williams". NBC News. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  14. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Welcome to Sarajevo". Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  15. ^ Williams, Pete (November 18, 2009). "Ashcroft: Holder lacks authority to order terror trials". NBC News. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  16. ^ Williams, Pete (March 27, 2007). "Gonzales: Firings were not improper". NBC News. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  17. ^ Williams, Pete (June 5, 2013). "Holder says he has no intention of stepping down". NBC News. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  18. ^ "Pete Williams Marks 25 Years with NBC News, By Landing An Interview with the FBI Director". Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  19. ^ Freedlander, David (April 20, 2013). "NBC, Today Show Get Boston Marathon Bombing Coverage Right". The Daily Beast. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  20. ^ Byers, Dylan (April 19, 2013). "Pete Williams and the threat to CNN". Dylan Byers on Media (blog of Politico). Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  21. ^ Resnick, Brian (April 19, 2013). "Pete Williams' Reporting Philosophy, And Why He's Getting Boston Right". National Journal. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  22. ^ [1].
  23. ^ "NBC News Correspondent and Casper Native Pete Williams to Deliver 2017 Annual Banquet Keynote." Wyoming State Bar Association website. [2]
  24. ^ "Pete Williams, Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)" University of Wyoming website, [3]
  25. ^ "Pete Williams to Receive 2018 John F. Hogan Award for His Contributions to Journalism and Freedom of the Press." Radio Television Digital News Association website, June 5, 2018. [4]

External links[edit]