In a semi-must read, The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove uses this week’s NBC upfront as an excuse to talk about Brian Williams. And we have new shots fired…
“What if there’s a story about a presidential candidate who lied or embellished his resume?” said an NBC News veteran who, because of the sensitivity of the subject, spoke on condition of anonymity. “How do you have Brian Williams in that chair, intro-ing that story, without all of America guffawing?”
A second NBC News veteran expressed concern that the 55-year-old Williams—judging by quotes in various news stories attributed to “friends” of the anchor—might not fully grasp the gravity of his mistakes.
Valid points all the way…particularly the second source.
While Williams’s attorney, Robert Barnett, “is fighting tooth and nail to get him his job back”—not negotiating a partial payout of Williams’s reported $50 million 5-year contract, according to an NBC News veteran—the anchor is likely not hearing what he needs to hear.
“It’s a tricky area,” this person said. “Sometimes a hired gun will tell you what you want to hear. If Brian’s goal is a comeback, the hired gun’s goal is a comeback. They say, ‘it won’t be pretty, but we can fix this, we can make this happen.’ They’re not going to say, ‘Look, buddy, you have got to get a grip on reality. You are gonna continue to be tabloid fodder, and if you think you’ve had it bad so far, your return to NBC is gonna be a total shit show.’”
Another wrinkle, and not a trivial one, is that the 55-year-old Holt, a respected and well-liked figure among his colleagues, has narrowly lost in the Nielsens in recent weeks to ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir, but he has managed to stay in the game—with zero promotion.
The fact that Holt is doing relatively well at the formerly top-rated Nightly News—whose viewership began eroding more than a year ago under Williams—complicates any decision to take him off Nightly in favor of Williams or another anchor—say, the Today show’s Savannah Guthrie.
Guthrie has NO shot. None. Zero. Nada. Nil. NBC is not going to destabilize Today on a pretty big gamble that Guthrie will be able to do better than Holt. If NBC were to go that route it could very well wind up with both properties in a worse state than they currently are.
“Either way, Andy wants to own this decision,” said another NBC News insider. “He wants to go through it in detail—watch every single piece of video…Frankly, it’s nice to have somebody in there who can own it, so everybody will be like, ‘OK, we can live with the decision, whatever it is.’”
Except, in the end, it’s ultimately Steve Burke’s call. Burke has “owned this decision” ever since he took Williams off the air. Lack’s opinion will carry considerable weight with Burke but it’s going to be his call.