1:37pm PT by Marisa Guthrie
NBCUniversal Execs Mull Lengthy Suspension for Brian Williams
Update: Brian Williams has been suspended from Nightly News for six months without pay.
Rumors are swirling about who could replace Brian Williams as anchor of the NBC Nightly News. But there is still an effort at the highest levels of NBCUniversal to save the embattled anchor.
According to sources at the network, CEO Steve Burke along with NBCUniversal News Group CEO Pat Fili-Krushel and NBC News chief Deborah Turness are considering a scenario that would include a lengthy suspension and full-throated apology from Williams. And a decision is likely to come this week, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
Williams was excluded from a meeting over the weekend with NBC executives, but he did meet with Burke at Burke’s Manhattan apartment on Tuesday morning, a meeting initiated by Burke. The two men are known to have a warm relationship; they regularly lunch together in the executive dining room at NBC’s 30 Rock headquarters.
And whether Williams can be saved also will reflect on Fili-Krushel and Turness, who was installed during the summer of 2013 by Fili-Krushel. Meanwhile, CNN has reported that Williams’ representative, Washington lawyer Robert Barnett, was spotted at 30 Rock on Monday.
Williams has led the top-rated evening newscast for most of the past 10 years, though David Muir has overtaken Williams on multiple occasions since taking over ABC’s World News Tonight last fall. But recent polls suggest that Williams' credibility among viewers has taken a major hit since it came to light last week that he embellished his proximity to danger during a 2003 field report in Iraq. An internal investigation led by NBC News investigative producer Richard Esposito is ongoing, with Esposito and his team interviewing producers who were in the field with Williams.
Williams is still in danger of losing his job. And numerous internal candidates have been floated in the media including Today anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Willie Geist; CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla; Lester Holt, who is currently filling in for Williams; and Tom Brokaw, who preceded Williams as Nightly anchor. There have even been reports that NBC brass has considered bringing Katie Couric back, though Couric tweeted that those rumors are untrue.
Lauer and Guthrie both just signed long-term deals that keep them at Today, so their contracts would have to be reopened. And Today, a far more financially valuable franchise, has actually made some ratings inroads of late. For the last three weeks of January, Today bested ABC’s top-rated Good Morning America for seven days in the critical adults 25-54 news demographic.