Brian Williams will cede his role as NBC "Nightly News" anchor to Lester Holt, who took Williams' place on the broadcast in February, but will stay on with the network in another capacity, according to network and industry sources and media reports.
Williams will most likely assume a prime-time host or anchor role at MSNBC, according to the sources. NBC News declined to comment on both the timing of the announcements and Williams' new role.
Williams was suspended in February for embellishing a story about a ride in a helicopter forced down by RPG fire during the Iraq War. CNN late Wednesday first reported that Williams had reached a tentative deal with NBC.
The expected announcement ends an anguished four-month-long saga for both Williams and NBC News, also damaged by revelations that the anchor who had successfully maintained the prestige and ratings dominance of "Nightly News" for a decade had fabricated elements of a story he had told on repeated occasions -- that the helicopter he was riding in to a forward staging area in the early days of the Iraq War in 2003 had been hit by enemy fire. Williams was forced to recant the story, which also drew sharp criticism from veterans.
Holt -- an NBC News veteran who has held on to the "Nightly" lead during most of Williams' suspension -- has been off the air this week as part of what NBC characterized as a "long-planned vacation." But industry observers said Wednesday his absence was an indication that an announcement was imminent, as NBC didn't want him in the awkward position of announcing his own news -- and his predecessor's.
Williams' saga remains far from over. NBC executives enforced a gag order on him after he apologized on the air for embellishing his war story, then subsequently launched an internal investigation to determine whether other instances of embellishment occurred over the years. While Williams is expected to remain at NBC, with the expanded role at MSNBC, he and the network will be expected to begin the long-delayed process of career and image reconstruction, addressing both that story and any other embellishments that may have surfaced as a result of the internal investigation.
In early spring, a report in The Washington Post said that as many as 11 instances of embellishment had been uncovered.Moreover, Andy Lack, the NBC News chairman, visited various NBC News bureaus seeking feedback from staffers about Williams and a possible return to "Nightly." According to both industry sources and reports, staffers told Lack that Williams had lost their support.