Brian Williams will return to MSNBC on Sept. 22, the network announced on Thursday. After his six-month suspension, he is set to anchor breaking news cover of Pope Francis’ U.S. visit.
Williams’ return to NBC’s sister network comes after chairman Andrew Lack essentially blew up the daytime lineup, with more changes likely to come in primetime.
Over the summer, Lack canceled the 3-5 p.m. block featuring “The Cycle,” “Now with Alex Wagner” and the “Ed Show” replacing it with straight news from 3-5 p.m. ET. It’s not yet known who will anchor from 3-5 p.m. (Williams will definitely anchor breaking news during that time) and Chuck Todd debuts at 5 p.m. in the coming weeks.
And 6 p.m. is open after Lack bumped Al Sharpton to weekends. MSNBC executives say Williams won’t have a dedicated hour on the schedule, but will work across afternoon programming.
Williams, of course, fell far from grace in February after being suspended for exaggerating accounts of his time reporting in Iraq. The former “Nightly News” star had previously told accounts of being on an Iraqi helicopter shot down by RPG fire.
His stories were later challenged by veterans groups, leading Williams to apologize for the error on air. The media firestorm that ensued was too much for NBC and Williams to manage, leading the network to suspend him for six months and ultimately replace him on the evening flagship news broadcast with Lester Holt.
His return to MSNBC is a win-win for both Williams and MSNBC. For Williams, he can slowly rehabilitate his image in a low pressure situation with potential for his own program as time goes on. For the “Lean Forward” network, ratings is the name of the game after a year of a free fall in that department.
Love or hate him, Williams’ addition to the lineup will draw eyeballs, and for MSNBC, hopefully a stronger overall lineup for the network.