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Brian Williams starting on MSNBC Sept. 22

Moderator Brian Williams watches a video paying tribute

Moderator Brian Williams watches a video paying tribute to journalist Tim Russert during a taping of "Meet the Press" at NBC studios in Washington on June 22, 2008. Credit: Getty Images for Meet the Press / Alex Wong

To coincide with Pope Francis' (impending) U.S. visit, Brian Williams will return to the air on Sept. 22, according to reports, now confirmed by MSNBC. He had been expected to join MSNBC mid-September, but this is the first formal date designation.

Williams was suspended as anchor of "Nightly News" in February, that suspension lifted in August. His role at MSNBC, which still appears to be something of a work in progress, will be as breaking news anchor.

The visit by Pope Francis -- who arrives in New York on the 24th -- is the perfect re-entry opportunity for NBC and Williams:  a major news story.  NBC News chief Andy Lack and Williams had envisioned a role at MSNBC in which Williams would capitalize on one of his strengths, breaking news, along with a facile on-air style that keeps the story rolling and the details flowing.

Williams is not expected to immediately anchor a prime-time MSNBC series -- the network is in the midst of an evening overhaul -- which, according to some observers, may have been his own choice.

Williams' Sept. 22 return was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

The Pope coverage may be a shrewd move by NBC -- Williams, after all, would be the story if he were to join during a quiet news period, but the Pope will immediately take that unwelcome spotlight off him. Moreover, with coverage of this major visit, Williams jumps right back into the deep end of the pool, so to speak. 

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