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The Brian Williams Guessing Game Begins

Brian Williams
Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images.
Dylan Byers
November 10, 2021

In early 2016, Andy Lack and Brian Williams sat down at Canaletto, a small, white-tablecloth Italian restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side, to hatch one of the greatest redemption efforts in the recent history of American news media.  Lack, who had presided over NBC News during its heyday in the 1990s, had just returned as chairman of NBC News and MSNBC. Williams, the storied Nightly News anchor and heir to Tom Brokaw, was still trying to claw his way back to respect and relevance after blowing up his career with blatantly false claims about his experiences covering the war in Iraq. After a six-month penance, he had assumed a new role anchoring breaking news and special reports for MSNBC, a considerable fall from the lofty heights of the evening news that left him untethered to any dedicated slot in the cable channel’s lineup.

The brightest stars of NBC News don’t usually leave 30 Rock with their heads held high. Deborah Norville never made it back to Today after her maternity leave. Ann Curry was publicly humiliated and fired after being undermined by Matt Lauer. Lauer, in turn, left in infamy amid a high-profile sexual harassment scandal. David Gregory, the former “Meet The Press” host, was hung out to dry in the press for a year before the network cut him loose. A few years after the Williams debacle, Megyn Kelly, who courted controversy but couldn’t draw ratings, was forced out years before her contract was up, leaving the network holding the bag on a $69 million deal.