Lead image by AP Photo.
At this point, Brian Williams knows he’s dead: He’s simply negotiating the terms of his burial.
For a brief moment earlier this week, it looked as though Williams might have found a champion in Andrew Lack, the newly returned chief of NBC News. According to a blind-sourced story in the Daily News, Lack was hoping to reseat his old friend Williams in the network’s anchor chair. But whoever launched that trial balloon—presumably a Williams loyalist—must have been ducking for cover the next day when the Hollywood Reporter and the New York Post sent high-velocity rounds through the Daily News item with a blind-sourced story of its own. “They want Brian to resign,” an anonymous source told the Post. “If they have to fire him, they can’t control him.” That came just days after the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi broke news of the DC bureau’s “strong opposition” to Williams returning to the anchor chair.
The dueling leaks, which commenced even before the network suspended Williams for telling tall tales, might look like symmetrical warfare. But they’re not. NBC News is part of Comcast, which has a market cap of $147 billion. Just before this winter’s unpleasantness, Williams had negotiated a five-year contract for as much as $10 million a year. Although NBC leakers fed the press speculation about Comcast springing the contract’s “morality clause,” which allows cancelation if the event Williams brought himself “public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule,” Comcast doesn’t want a debilitating public fight such as it endured when it pushed Ann Curry out of Today. If it could rid itself of the Williams embarrassment (and the battle of the leaks, as the Wrap put it) by giving the newsman a big chunk of that $50 million now and an Uber prepaid account to vanish by midnight, it probably would.
Who can tell from the leaks whether Williams wants his job back or if he’s merely jockeying for the best termination deal he can get? Hell, he might not even know for sure that he wants to return and suffer the risk of croaking his viewers in blood clots of laughter.
The leaks coming from NBC News weren’t intended for Brian Williams as much as they were for his lawyer, Robert Barnett, who officiates at both hirings and firings as power players make their entrances and departures at media jobs in Washington and New York. The message appears to have been, ‘It’s up to you, Bob, how much more injury we do to your client’s reputation. Be a smart counselor and take the money we’ll offer in a couple weeks; we have no interest in Brian’s rehab.’
In the end, there wasn’t any reason to fight for BriWi. Lester Holt seems to be doing fine, and there appear to be all too many people within NBC happy to see Williams gone. (Rule of thumb for all laborers: Most of the people you work with would be happy to see you go.)
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