NBC will keep disgraced “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, but in a different role

Staying power.
Staying power.
Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
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NBC will announce today that it is keeping Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, but in a new role, according to the New York Times (paywall), Wall Street Journal (paywall), CNN, and others. NBC removed Williams from his post in February following reports that the deeply esteemed news anchor had seriously exaggerated experiencing an attack on his helicopter while reporting in Iraq—a claim he later admitted was embellished (video).

Lester Holt, who took over Williams’ chair when he was removed, will remain as the face of Nightly News.

Williams’ new role could be centered around the US cable news channel MSNBC, where he previously worked as anchor of its flagship news program The News with Brian Williams, from 1996 to 2004. The New York Times reports that this new role may be in a breaking news capacity, at least initially.

Williams has remained silent since being suspended without pay four months ago. NBC opened an investigation into the claims, looking into video evidence from talk shows like the Late Show with David Letterman and The Daily Show on which he boasted of his spurious experience in Iraq.

After a firestorm of criticism from the media and military members, many thought Williams’ career might be over. But since then, a number of prominent media figures, as well as leaders of multiple veterans groups, have argued Williams deserves forgiveness, and outrage over his deception has simmered down.

A role at MSNBC could be beneficial to both parties. It would likely help rebuild the cable news channel, which has undergone steep ratings declines. And it would give Williams a place to re-enter the news space outside of the spotlight.

To be sure, though, it would still be a serious debasement for Williams, who was among the most respected journalists in the business, and whose prime-time network show was the #1 nightly news program on television.

And as NYU professor Jay Rosen pointed out on Twitter, many questions still remain unanswered: