Will NBC ever let Brian Williams return?

Following Brian Williams suspension for embellishing an Iraq War story, the network is putting a familiar face in the anchor chair. Have we seen the last of Brian Williams? 

Matt Sayles/FILE/AP
FILE PHOTO- NBC says it is suspending Brian Williams as "Nightly News" anchor and managing editor for six months without pay for misleading the public about his experiences covering the Iraq War. Lester Holt will fill in for Williams in the meantime.

The news of Brian Williams's suspension and NBC's naming of Lester Holt to be his temporary replacement has made waves across the media world.

Mr. Holt, the longtime weekend anchor on the Today Show and NBC Nightly News is a familiar face to viewers. The network will give him six months to win back the audience who may have turned away following Mr. Williams’s embellishing of a report during the time he was covering the invasion of Iraq for NBC.

The controversy has prompted calls for his firing and criticism from other members of the media, as well as calls for restraint. On Wednesday, another voice from the broadcast news world weighed in on the matter.

Television and radio host Larry King was approached by a TMZ reporter and asked about Williams. Mr. King said that the whole incident was unfortunate, but mentioned he did not think Williams would be welcomed back as lead the anchor at NBC.  

“I like Brian [but] what he did was not excusable, but I hope he comes back though,” Mr. King told TMZ. When asked if he could see Williams returning after six months, King said, “It will be hard [to return] because the whole basis of the news is trust. But America forgives.”

In six months’ time, America may very well have forgiven Williams. But if Lester Holt performs well as the lead anchor, the network would most likely balk at the opportunity to give Williams back his hold job, according to King.

“[Holt] is going to do [the broadcasts] for six months. I think if he gets good ratings and [NBC] like[s] him, they’ll keep him.”

In the broadcasts since the announcement of the suspension, NBC has removed Williams’s name from the Nightly News title, according to the Los Angeles Times. This week Holt had to report on NBC's response to the incident and he said, "Brian is a member of our family but so are you, our viewers, and we will work every night to be worthy of your trust," Mr. Holt said.

However, there may be a growing population inside the walls of 30 Rock who are not in support of Williams returning to the anchor desk, according to CNN. Now NBC executives are left to debate two difficult options for a news organization: Do they stick it out with Williams and let America’s onetime favorite anchor return to his post, or will ratings and profits be higher without him?

However, if the powers that be inside NBC are basing their decision off ratings alone, it could very well spell the end for Mr. Williams who was viewed as the logical, well-established replacement for Tom Brokaw when the veteran anchor retired in 2004.

ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” has reportedly experienced a huge ratings spike since Friday, the only evening network newscast to see a boost in the all-important 25-54 age demographic since Friday. The ratings grab continued for ABC as Mr. Muir’s newscast was the only one to see a ratings boost from the previous week, going from 1.5 million to over 2.3 million viewers, according to the report.

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