Lester Holt will permanently nab the NBC Nightly News anchor seat which formerly belonged to the embattled Brian Williams, who was suspended for exaggerating news stories, Variety reports.
Williams isn’t totally booted off the network though. The disgraced anchor will be demoted to a lesser position that will be mostly with MSNBC (the exact role is currently unknown). At the same time, Lester Holt — who served as Brian’s fill-in after the network slapped Williams with a six-month suspension — will become “the first African-American solo anchor of a broadcast network’s evening newscast,” Deadline said.
Williams’ misfortunes began in late January when soldiers blasted the news anchor for fibbing about his “helicopter attack” in Iraq back in 2003. Williams claimed that the aircraft he was in was forced down by a rocket-propelled grenade, but military men came forward to say this was not true — the chinook ahead of Williams, not the one he was in, was hit.
“When he was on the air on the Letterman show, I was going crazy,” pilot Christopher Simeone told the New York Times, referring to Williams’ recounting the incident on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2013. “I was thinking ‘This guy is such a liar and everyone believes it.’”
Williams later apologized, saying he his memories were “conflated.”
Williams was kicked off the air in February and the network launched an investigation into “Conflategate.” According to Deadline, senior executive producer Richard Esposito found 11 instances of Williams fabricating stories, “including his account of his time in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, claims he flew into Baghdad with SEAL Team 6, etc.”
Holt has been at the network for 15 years. But who is the “widely-respected” Lester Holt? Newsday highlights Holt’s career milestones: “He reported on the Iraq war in 2003 from the Kuwaiti border, later moving in the troops; he reported from Lebanon in 2006 during the war between Israel and Hezbollah; he was on the ground in Haiti in 2010 immediately after the massive earthquake there; he covered the Arab spring in Cairo and the nuclear crisis in Japan in 2011.”
Holt has always been a key player at NBC, but he never really garnered the TV stardom Williams did. Newsday attributes this to Holt’s quiet personality: “He doesn’t gossip about coworkers or — like some famous TV news stars who will remain unnamed here — provide delicious off-the-record snark about his peers.”
Variety jokes that Holt will do just fine at NBC — as long as he can “keep his facts straight about the chopper.”