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Vanity Fair: Brian Williams Still Has Many Options at NBC

Image: Vanity Fair: Brian Williams Still Has Many Options at NBC
(Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 12 June 2015 03:13 PM

Media leaks indicate that disgraced NBC News anchorman Brian Williams will likely come back to work one day.

The network news division's new chief, and Williams' friend, Andrew Lack, has issued a directive for his staff to "think creatively" for a continuing role for the veteran newsman.

Williams has been under temporary suspension for four months after it was revealed that he had exaggerated his experiences reporting the war in Iraq, reports Vanity Fair's Brian Burrough in an analysis of the situation. This allowed NBC to investigate if there were any other questionable statements that have been made.

In the months since, the network's investigators, headed by producer Richard Esposito, suggested Williams embellished at least 11 other stories, including his experiences when the Berlin Wall came down and stories about seeing dead bodies after Hurricane Katrina.

But despite losing his credibility, Williams, who led the "NBC Nightly News" to top ratings, remains popular with much of the viewing public, so a new role for him is being sought.

That will mean that Lack needs to address the scandal that disgraced Williams, a longtime associate told Vanity Fair, so he can acknowledge his mistakes.

"The network has to be transparent if it is to maintain some credibility on this," the unnamed associate told the publication. "There are things hanging out there, all these allegations, and they have to be addressed. I have trouble envisioning Brian doing that. You can't just say, 'I may have had a brain tumor.'

Vanity Fair writer Burrough reports he asked about Williams participating in a special report, but the observer told him that the special would need to be done by someone else.

"The trouble is, when you start to go through the 11 acts [of embellishment] that everyone thinks they know about, it's going to be devastating," the source said. "You're almost flat-lining the guy, and then you have to bring in other people to resuscitate him. If you were to do a special, or a series of specials, then people will start to understand the enormity of it, the depth of it."

"Eventually, you know you're going to have to interview a psychologist or a psychiatrist, to understand his motivations, and then you’re getting into some pretty scary places. Could he survive that?"

Meanwhile, Williams' co-workers have rallied behind his replacement, Lester Holt, who is likely to be named as his permanent fill-in. However, NBC and parent corporation Comcast have other media properties, reports Vanity Fair, including MSNBC, where Williams could turn up.

"MSNBC needs all the help in the world," the observer told Burrough. "He could probably carry a show there very easily. It depends how crazy they want to get. I’m sure E! would give him a talk show. The question is, can he handle either one from an ego point of view?"

Another Williams associate said he expects NBC will give him a title, like the network did after Ann Curry left the "Today" show, and let him work on something that reflects his passions.

"Then if that works out, they can feather him into important coverage on the network, maybe election nights or debates, just making sure that he doesn’t step on Lester's toes," he said.

NBC could face some competition to keep Williams from Fox News, whose CEO Roger Ailes has defended the newsman, and some network executives believe that Williams could find a new home online, as Katie Couric did with Yahoo.

Williams could also break away from news, as he has tried to persuade network officials in the past to allow him to replace either David Letterman or Jay Leno.

"No one worried about whether Larry King or Howard Stern had credibility," writes Burrough. "They watched because they were entertaining. And for all his sins, there’s no denying that Williams could still be one heck of an entertainer."

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Media leaks indicate that disgraced NBC News anchorman, Brian Williams, will likely come back to work one day. The network news division's new chief, and Williams' friend, Andrew Lack, has issued a directive for his staff to think creatively for a continuing role for the...
brian williams, nbc, vanity fair
Friday, 12 June 2015 03:13 PM
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