Brian Williams will be in the “Nightly News” anchor chair tonight, a source tells TVNewser, even as an internal investigation is launched into his reporting.
Richard Esposito, senior EP of the NBC News investigative unit, will lead the internal probe, the New York Daily News reports. Esposito joined NBC from ABC News in 2013.
This has been a difficult few days for all of us at NBC News.
Yesterday, Brian and I spoke to the Nightly News team. And this morning at the Editorial Exchange, we both addressed the wider group. Brian apologized once again, and specifically expressed how sorry he is for the impact this has had on all of you and on this proud organization.
As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired. We’re working on what the best next steps are – and when we have something to communicate we will of course share it with you.
Since joining NBC News, I’ve seen great strength and resilience. We are a close-knit family, and your response this week has made that even clearer.
As a relentless news agenda marches on, thank you again for continuing to do what we do best – bring the most important stories of the day to our audience.
Deborah [Turness, president, NBC News]
[A]n executive familiar with the matter says Williams will face no disciplinary action. His apology, delivered during the Wednesday edition of “NBC Nightly News,” was accepted internally…
Negative fallout from the apology could result in the anchor’s appearances outside the newsroom being cut back, said an executive familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Slow-jamming the news on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” as Williams has done on numerous occasions, may now be seen as inappropriate.
Of more immediate concern is an already scheduled visit to “Late Show With David Letterman” next week. Whether NBC News allows Williams to keep that booking remains to be seen.
An overwhelming 80% think that Williams should no longer continue as a news anchor for NBC, according to a survey conducted Thursday by celebrity brand expert Jeetendr Sehdev, who polled 1,000 people who either watched or read the anchor’s apology.
If Williams keeps his seat in the anchor chair, he will have to face an uphill climb to regain viewers trust. Seventy percent of respondents surveyed by do not believe that Williams will overcome the mistake.
Eight out of 10 respondents reported that they will now struggle to believe what Williams says following his admission that he “made a mistake in recalling the events 12 years ago,” as he said during his Wednesday night newscast…
Seventy percent did not describe Williams’ apology as sincere, with 60% believing that the anchor attempted to minimize the significance of his fabricated story in his apology.
“I have a feeling that he didn’t have a choice [but to apologize],” said David Luke, a former soldier and flight engineer with the 159th Aviation Regiment who was aboard a helicopter flying along with the one carrying Williams and his NBC crew.
Luke said he thought the apology came only because soldiers challenged Williams’ version and otherwise, “he would have told that war story until he was on his dying bed.”…
Despite Williams’ effort to contain the damage, some former soldiers thought there were still discrepancies between his account and their own memory of the events.
Luke said it was “misleading” for Williams to say his aircraft was following the stricken Chinook. Luke told Stars and Stripes that Williams’ Chinook was headed south, back toward Kuwait, when it passed another formation from a separate aviation company flying north.
During the anti-Vietnam protests, dozens of activists falsely claimed to have been vets to strengthen their case against the war. Others, like Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, claimed to have seen action in Vietnam when they hadn’t.
People have said they won medals they didn’t, received decorations they didn’t…
With this inescapable stain on his character, Brian Williams immediately rises to the top of the short list of the least trusted men in America.
The question is whether Americans care any longer about the trustworthiness of anchormen — whether they know enough by now to know the guy they watch reading the news off a TelePrompTer is, in the end, nothing more than a performer.
While the public speculates on Williams’ fate, industry insiders are asking a far more important question: Who is responsible for NBC’s decline?
Deborah Turness is the President of NBC News, and oversaw the division during Gregory’s long, embarrassing ouster from ‘Meet.’ The Curry fiasco predates Turness, but she has nevertheless been unable to return ‘Today’ to first place (despite some daily victories).
But Turness is not really the one holding the reins at NBC News. The division’s real leader is her boss, Pat Fili-Krushel, the Chairman of NBCUniversal News Group. Fili-Krushel was promoted to that position in 2012, just weeks after Curry left the ‘Today’ show in tears. She hired Turness one year later to oversee the day-to-day machinations of the news division, but the big decisions ultimately wind up on her desk.
On Friday, several current and former sources at NBC News, as well as industry insiders at other news organizations, said that the responsibility for NBC’s decline ultimately fell to Fili-Krushel. Several of those sources pointed to Fili-Krushel’s lack of experience in news — she previously served as President of the ABC TV Network and as EVP of Administration at Time Warner, but did not oversee a news division — and her poor handling of public relations.
Here’s the real question: We need to get a body watch on Deborah, what’s her name, Turness, the NBC News president. The British babe, Deborah Furness or Turness, I forget. Deborah Turness. We need to have a spy on her because she might… Remember how she backed a Brinks truck up to Jon Stewart and tried to hire him for Meet the Press?
Well, Turness, here’s another golden opportunity to get Stewart.
CBS got Colbert. NBC could get Stewart.
So you’re out there professing your love and admiration and your total unblinding support for Brian Williams, you’re secretly trying to hire Jon Stewart to do the news. I mean, if you’re gonna have Jon Stewart host Meet the Press, what does that say about Meet the Press and what does it say about what the news has become? If it’s not about numbers anymore, if it’s all about bragging rights and getting the hippest dude as Les Moonves said when he hired Colbert, well, here’s a chance for Deborah Turness to make another run at Jon Stewart, while everybody thinks Brian Williams is safe.
More than anyone else, Williams is the face of NBC, and not just its news division. Besides his “Slow Jam the News” segments and edited rap songs on Jimmy Fallon’s show, Williams has also leant his talents to other NBC properties by hosting Saturday Night Live and appearing on 30 Rock.
After the tragic fall of David Gregory, NBC really cannot afford to cut Williams loose. They’ve already installed Chuck Todd on Meet the Press — who would they even consider as his replacement right now? Just for argument’s sake lets examine this question. With Diane Sawyer out of the anchor chair at ABC, choosing a woman would be a smart move. But Savannah Guthrie didn’t exactly impress with her softball Obama interview before the Super Bowl and Andrea Mitchell isn’t exactly ratings gold on MSNBC.
For all those reasons, NBC News president Deborah Turness is probably loathe to fire Williams, despite the voices who are calling for his head (or denying that they are calling for his head in the case of Tom Brokaw). When polled, 70% of our readers said NBC should fire Williams. But frankly, I’m pretty sure that if we asked that question about almost any working news anchor, at least 60% of you would want them off the air…
Even if Williams didn’t simply “conflate” two events in his head and was actually trying to prop himself up by exaggerating his wartime experience, he wasn’t doing it as Brian Williams the NBC Nightly News anchor, but rather as Brian Williams the man who may have legitimately thought he was going to die while flying over a war zone during the Iraq invasion. He didn’t get someone else’s story wrong, he got his own story wrong. And that matters.
I understand Brian Williams’ predicament. Our memories are not very reliable, especially in life-and-death situations. Part of it is, yes, our need to aggrandize the risks we take; part of it is our minds’ reaction to fear. Part of it is that journalism involves story-telling and sometimes the story gets carried away with itself. Mistakes are made. My story may be minor compared to the one Brian Williams told–but that one story should not imperil his distinguished career. His apology was not elegant, but it should be accepted.
In the end, I find the phenomenon of the schadenfreude circus that has erupted–yet again–to be overwrought and unnecessarily brutal. And the sudden reports, from unnamed NBC staffers, that nobody ever liked Williams anyway, to be too convenient to be credible. And the judgments about whether Williams should be fired, from pundits who never saw the inside of a chinook helicopter, self-righteous and gagging.
The next time Williams finds himself in a war or storm zone, I’ll be watching with appreciation, with the absolute conviction that, after this sad moment, his reporting will be impeccable.
Via the Free Beacon.