According to a report from CNN Money, NBC execs are looking for a new place for Williams at the network. Negotiations are not yet complete, but Williams could also end up walking away from the Peacock following a financial settlement.
NBC News chairman Andy Lack has apparently backed the idea of keeping Williams. According to CNN, Lack has asked employees to “think creatively” in terms of finding a place for the former “Nightly News” anchor who has been off the air since Feb. 9.
Reps for NBC News declined to comment on Sunday. NBC sources downplayed the report and said there has been no change in Williams’ employment status. NBC suspended Williams for six months without pay in the wake of a scandal over misleading statements he made about his experiences while covering the war in Iraq in 2003.
Williams’ statements about facing enemy fire while traveling in a helicopter were challenged by other military personnel who were part of the same mission. Williams delivered an on-air mea culpa and acknowledged that his helicopter was never in the line of fire on that mission.
Scrutiny of Williams’ statements on Iraq lead to questions about the anchor’s past claims about other field reporting experiences, including his time covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. NBC News has mounted an internal investigation of the many claims against Williams and is expected to issue a report on its findings in the coming weeks.
The fallout from the Williams’ scandal has already been felt among Peacock execs. Pat Fili-Krushel was replaced in March as NBC News Group chairman by Andrew Lack, the NBC alum who headed the news division during its heyday in the 1990s.
Lack, according to multiple sources, has been trying to find a way to keep Williams in the NBC fold. Given the challenges to his veracity as a journalist, it is seen as a fait accompli that he will not be able to return to the “NBC Nightly News” anchor chair. But Williams is nonetheless a known commodity and NBC doesn’t want to be in the position of handing talent to another network should it cut ties entirely with Williams.
Complicating the negotiations is the fact that Williams inked rich five-year deal to remain the “Nightly News” frontman in December, just two months before the embarrassing disclosure of of his embellished Iraq war statements came to light. NBC News would undoubtedly face a hefty settlement of that contract, which reportedly called for Williams to earn $10 million a year in his role as anchor and managing editor of “Nightly News.”