MEDIA

Can Brian Williams' Career Recover After Six-Month Suspension?

02/12/2015 01:57 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2015

Now that "NBC Nightly News" anchor and managing editor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay following an admission that he lied about his helicopter coming under fire in Iraq, the question is: Can his already-tainted reputation survive the time off the air?

Betsy West, former vice president of CBS News, told HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski on Wednesday that while it's too soon to tell what will happen after the six months, the issue for NBC is both ethical and financial.

"NBC … is going to be looking at how damaged [Williams] is and whether or not anything else is out there that’s going to damage him," West said. "And whether or not they’re damaged by not having him around and can they rebuild without him?"

HuffPost's senior media reporter Michael Calderone wasn't as reticent to predict the outcome of Williams' career.

"It's highly unlikely he’s ever back in the 'Nightly News' anchor desk," Calderone said.

If Lester Holt, who is filling in during the suspension, or whomever eventually replaces Williams is able to keep NBC's ratings up, Calderone predicts the network won't bring Williams back.

"I think a lot of things would have to not work and then also get this public support, this management support, in order to get him back in there," he said. "So it’s a really steep climb."

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  • Lester Holt
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    Holt currently anchors the weekend editions of "NBC Nightly News" and often fills in for Williams when he is out, including a several-week stint in 2013 when Williams underwent knee replacement surgery. He is the obvious choice for an interim replacement, if not a permanent one, should Williams be forced to step down. Holt has been in the NBC News family since 2000 and graduated with Williams from MSNBC to NBC News in 2005. He's since served as both "Dateline NBC" anchor and "Weekend Today" co-anchor.
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    NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
    Guthrie has settled in well to the "Today" show after a delicate transition that saw her replace Ann Curry at the show's most beleaguered moment. Fresh off a contract extension that will keep her at the network for another three years, Guthrie could make the switch from morning to evening quite easily. She has the political bona fides from her previous roles as the network's White House correspondent and anchor of MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," and she's said to be very well-liked inside the network. Williams himself recently told the Los Angeles Times, "If you polled the entire phone directory of NBC, you wouldn't come up with a negative word about her."
  • Matt Lauer
    NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
    The biggest star at the network outside Williams, Lauer is on contract with NBC through 2016. Apart from the sudden speculation about "Nightly News," the question of who will replace Lauer when he leaves "Today" has been the most buzzed-about choice NBC News is facing. One possible scenario could involve Josh Elliott, the former "Good Morning America" anchor recently brought over to NBC Sports, taking the spot on "Today" with Lauer heading to "Nightly." While his popularity -- particularly with women -- took a hit during the Curry transition, Lauer would bring the familiarity and the gravitas needed to smooth the possible tumult of Williams' exit.
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    Tapper left his role as ABC News' senior White House correspondent to join CNN in 2013 and, ostensibly, to become the new face of the network under Jeff Zucker's leadership. That hasn't quite panned out, with Zucker betting big on documentaries and original series starring the likes of Anthony Bourdain, and "CNN Tonight" host Don Lemon garnering headlines for his increasingly controversial statements. A move to "Nightly News" would represent a big step for Tapper, who last month averaged 666,000 total viewers as host of CNN's "The Lead." It would also give him an opportunity to take on ABC News, which passed him over for the moderator gig on "This Week." It doesn't hurt that Tapper has been establishing his own military chops, most notably with his book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, about one of the deadliest battles in Afghanistan.
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