Is Brian Williams on his way back to the big chair he surrendered to Lester Holt on Nightly News? It’s starting to look that way. After his awkward departure from his anchor duties nearly four years ago, it looked as if his career was basically over. He’d been shuffled off to the network’s equivalent of the kiddy table at MSNBC after it was discovered he’d been “embellishing” his own role in news stories over the years. But as the New York Post reports, Williams was recently seen on stage at a high-profile event for advertisers, alongside some of the network’s other big names.
Brian Williams is a step farther along on the road to redemption, it seems.
The disgraced anchor made a return to the NBC upfronts on Monday after a four-year absence from the all-important annual event of pitching to potential advertisers.
The onetime “Nightly News” anchor was forced to leave the desk in 2015 after it was revealed that he’d embellished stories with fictional details — and was sent to the relative Siberia of 11 p.m. on MSNBC.
In addition to the recent appearance at Radio City Music Hall, the network also announced that Williams would be sharing 2020 election coverage duties with Rachel Maddow.
So what brought about this change of heart? As with everything else in this business, it’s all about the ratings. His eleven o’clock show on MSNBC has reportedly turned into a serious winner. He’s been beating both Fox and CNN in that time slot for the past few months and the network loves a winner, even if they have a “colorful” past. And it feels like there almost has to be a statute of limitations on what Williams did, so he’d have to be let back into the NBC clubhouse eventually.
From the beginning of that entire mess, I always felt that the response to Willams’ storytelling was a bit on the harsh side. I agree that since he was a network news anchor he had a responsibility to get all of his facts straight, but for the most part, his sins didn’t take place while sitting at the anchor desk. His problem was that he loved showing up on the late-night shows or at public appearances and talking about himself. (A trait that many of us share, I’m sure.) And those were the places where he would spin tales that were mostly true in terms of what had happened, but insert himself into the action a bit more to make the story more exciting.
If Willams were accused of plagiarizing the work of others, misquoting sources or just making up fake news, he’d probably need to be driven out of the business permanently. But his infractions were of a more personal than professional nature. If NBC wants to put it all behind them now, four years down the road, I don’t think I’m going to get all that upset over it.