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Williams to MSNBC an embarrassing move

First Published      Last Updated Aug 19 2015 02:55 pm

Here's what we've learned from NBC News. Brian Williams is not credible enough to anchor the "NBC Nightly News," but he is credible enough to cover breaking news on MSNBC.

Doesn't really say much for MSNBC, does it?

Actually, what it says is that Comcast, which owns NBC, didn't want to eat Williams' enormous salary. Shortly before he got himself into trouble, the anchorman signed a five-year, $50 million contract, and firing him would have resulted in a huge payout.

Maybe NBC will include something in future contracts with news personalities that precludes a payout if the person is found to be a big, fat liar.

The weirdest part of all of this is that Williams' wounds are entirely self-inflicted. He exaggerated or made up stories about himself so he could entertain people on late-night talk shows. He insulted the intelligence of his viewers by claiming to have been in a helicopter when it took fire over Iraq, when that never happened.

Reportedly, NBC found at least 11 instances when Williams exaggerated/lied. And yet he's been entrusted with delivering important, breaking news on MSNBC.

If NBC News actually were concerned about journalism, Williams would never report for NBC or MSNBC again.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke issued a statement that Williams "now has a chance to earn back everyone's trust" and he "earned" that "opportunity" because of "his excellent work over 22 years at NBC News."

If I made up stories the way Williams did, I would've been fired immediately. Of course, my employers wouldn't be stuck with giving me a multimillion-dollar payout to get rid of me.


Williams has already embarked on a redemption tour. On Friday, he told Matt Lauer on "The Today Show" that the past few months have been "torture" for him and said his lies came "from a bad place" and were the result of "a sloppy choice of words."

He did not come across looking good.

But if Williams can bring a few viewers to MSNBC, it will be a few more than the cable channel is attracting right now. MSNBC's ratings are abysmal.

According to the Washington Post, MSNBC is averaging 334,000 total viewers per day.

Those would be great numbers for one of the local Utah TV stations; for a national cable network, they're sort of a joke.

Meanwhile, Lester Holt is the new permanent anchor of "NBC Nightly News," becoming the first African American to solo-anchor a network evening newscast. He's managed to hold on to most of the viewers who were watching Williams.

He's still not doing so hot in Utah. During the May sweeps, Holt finished third on KSL-Ch. 5, behind CBS on KUTV-Ch. 2 and ABC on KTVX-Ch. 4.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune . Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.