NBC News has suspended anchor Brian Williams for six months, and those inside the company doubt that he will end up surviving the fabrication scandal that has taken him off the air.
Sources inside NBC who spoke to CNN’s Brian Stelter say that he might never return to his position as anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” the most popular network newscast in America. Williams has held the “Nightly News” anchor spot since 2004, when he suceeded Tom Brokaw.
Despite a statement from NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke saying Williams deserves a second change, other NBC sources who spoke to CNN said they aren’t so sure that will actually happen.
One longtime NBC staffer told CNN that they feel like they “have just witnessed a sudden death.”
Other reactions from NBC sources were similarly dire:
Reactions from NBCers: “I am gobsmacked.” “No guarantee of coming back.” “Humiliating for this whole network.” “I don’t see how he returns.”
– Brian Stelter (brianstelter) February 11, 2015
Newscasters outside of NBC had similar reactions:
Mediaite founder Dan Abrams said on CNN that NBC is likely worried about other fabrications surfacing, as an internal investigation has created “concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field,” according to a statement from NBC President Deborah Turness.
Williams’ exaggerations have hurt his reputation significantly. A list released this week showed that Wiliams went from being the 23rd-most-trusted person in America a little over a week ago to falling to the 835th spot after news broke that he embellished a story from his coverage of the Iraq invasion in 2003.
Williams admitted to the exaggeration after a veteran came forward to question his oft-repeated tale about being in a helicopter that was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.
The anchor has recounted this story several times over the past 12 years and has embellished his role in the incident over time. Although Williams was indeed on a helicopter that was travelling near one that was downed by RPG fire, he arrived at the site later and his helicopter was never hit with an RPG.
Lester Holt is filling in for Williams during his suspension. The six-month suspension is without pay.
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