Williams and primetime host Rachel Maddow will co-anchor the NBCUniversal-owned cable-news network’s coming coverage of the Iowa caucus, slated to start Monday, February 1 at 6 p.m. The pair will hold forth from New York, and will be joined by Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd, who will be stationed in Iowa. The group will form the core of the team of correspondents from both MSNBC and NBC News who will guide viewers all year during important stops on the campaign trail in 2016.
Pairing Williams with Maddow, two of the network’s best-known faces, and augmenting them with others offers a clear signal: MSNBC is counting on this year’s Presidential race to help it draw attention and further define itself as a place for breaking news – particularly the political kind – as it works to move itself away from being known primarily for analyzing the news through a progressive lens.
Other parts of the network’s lineup will tie themselves to Iowa, too. MSNBC’s signature morning program, “Morning Joe,” will hold forth live in Des Moines on Monday, February 1 and Tuesday, February 2, and also offer a special afternoon edition airing on caucus day. Executives at NBCU have indicated they are considering expanding “Joe” by an hour on the network’s programming schedule. Chris Matthews will host weekend coverage from Iowa leading up to Monday.
Maddow is looking forward to providing coverage of what is likely to be an unpredictable event, she said in an interview, noting there is no obvious winner on the Democratic side and lots of to-and-fro among Republicans. “I mean, who on the Democratic side knows who’s going to win?” she asked humorously. “That’s freaking spectacular, just in terms of suspense.”
Teaming Maddow with Williams may, at first blush, raise some eyebrows. Maddow is largely considered to be a meticulous reporter, while Williams started a tenure at MSNBC last fall after an embarrassing 2015 episode at NBC News which involved him embellishing a tale of a 2003 reporting trip to Iraq. He was suspended for six months and removed from his anchor job at “NBC Nightly News” on NBC. His main job at MSNBC is to cover big breaking news during the network’s daytime schedule.
“NBC and Brian sort of investigated that and worked that out and came to terms on that, and I think he’s back on the air for a reason,” said Maddow. “There really isn’t anybody better in terms of handling breaking news, serious news, and as a resource for having to deal real-time with quickly changing information, he’s the best there is. She added: “What’s past is past.”
Williams has made surprise appearances in other parts of the NBCU empire. He was recently called upon to anchor a special report on NBC in December while “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt was ill. And he and Maddow have worked together on air in the recent past.
Chris Hayes, Kasie Hunt, Hallie Jackson, Chris Jansing, Katy Tur, and Kristen Welker will live from campaign headquarters and caucus sites across Iowa.