(Update: says his transition is “smooth and entirely amicable” and completely unrelated to the “Commander in Chief” forum. Read more here.)
Mark Lukasiewicz, a three-time Emmy winner whose 16-year career at NBC News included executive producing the much-maligned “Commander in Chief Forum” where Matt Lauer was accused of going too easy on Donald Trump, is stepping down to take another role at NBC Universal.
Lukasiewicz, who served as senior vice president of NBC News Specials, will become “a resource for NBCUniversal’s Talent Lab,” NBC News president Noah Oppenheim told staff last week. NBC executive Rashida Jones (not to be confused with the “Parks and Recreation” star of the same name) will take over as SVP of Specials for NBC News & MSNBC.
Oppenheimer praised Lukasiewicz for “significant and many contributions” to NBC News, including initiatives such as Democracy Plaza, Education Nation, and NewsConnect. But production of the “Commander in Chief” forum was widely panned. CNN quoted one anonymous executive who called it a “disaster.”
NBC News was accused of going easy on Trump at the forum after the Republican Party said “CNBC should be ashamed” for its tough handling of the candidates in a Republican primary debate.
Trump has repeatedly criticized what he considers unfair coverage of NBC, but he praised Lauer’s work moderating the forum.
Here is Oppenheimer’s letter to staff:
NBC News and MSNBC are working more closely together than ever. Specials is no exception, so we are expanding NBC News Specials to now support MSNBC at a crucial moment when there is greater viewer demand for this kind of programming.
I’ve asked Rashida Jones to become SVP, Specials, NBC News & MSNBC, which will combine our resources and considerable expertise in this area for maximum impact. Rashida will work with Bob Epstein and the NBC News Specials team, and will continue to work closely with Phil and his team-especially Jeff Kepnes, who recently joined as MSNBC’s Senior EP of Specials-as well as with Marc Greenstein.
Rashida joined MSNBC in 2013 as EP for Chris Jansing and was promoted to Managing Editor in early 2014. She’s been a critical part of MSNBC’s dayside success-the best growth story in cable news. She brings deep knowledge of cable, breaking news coverage and events programming to her new role.
I also want to acknowledge Mark Lukasiewicz, who is stepping down from NBC News after a remarkable 16-year run. Luk has been a consistent leader and innovator for NBC News, the driving force behind our breaking news live coverage as well as major projects such as Democracy Plaza, Education Nation, NewsConnect and the 4th floor newsroom. I have asked him to stay on for a brief time to ensure a smooth transition at Specials. Following that he will be using his incredible experience in change management as a resource for NBCUniversal’s Talent Lab.
Please join me in congratulating Rashida on her new role, and thanking Mark for his significant and many contributions to NBC News.
Itay Hod contributed to this story.