What Does Brian Williams Return Say About MSNBC?

06/18/2015 04:03 pm ET | Updated Jun 18, 2016

Brian Williams appears to be on track to be back, just like the executives announced when the NBC Evening News anchor was thrown out of his seat following several run-ins with the truth earlier this year. The issue of Williams and his "misrepresentations" began with his story about the helicopter he was on in a war zone that never faced attack, though he certainly created a compelling story of how frightening of an experience he "endured."

Since the breaking of the story on his "misleading" reports, virtually everything he has covered since the 1990s has been under intense scrutiny, from witnessing the tumbling of the wall that divided East Germany from the West to the way he casually stumbled on a Pope and was able to have an unscheduled interview with him. These were all fascinating stories, but their veracity remain doubtful and some have been proven to be untrue.

Following such "creative" journalism, NBC had to do something, and that was a six month suspension without pay for Williams from his anchor chair -- and his other duties at NBC -- to contemplate the consequences of his behavior. From the beginning there has been wild speculation about what would ultimately happen. Some argued that it would be treated like "it never happened," and he would find himself in the anchor chair and would go back to the biggest ratings in the news industry. Others, after seeing the success of his replacement, Lester Holt, thought it would be best to find something else for Williams to do. However, the debate about the future of Brian Williams seems to be over. NBC wants to put their one time superstar on the staff of MSNBC. For those who have served in a high position in any major network, this is a form a purgatory, a way of firing someone without actually pulling the trigger. After all, MSNBC's ratings are pathetic and it no longer even positions itself as a news network with its lineup of overt progressives and slogans that sound more like a political party than an information source (for example, "It's Time to Lean Forward").

That may be NBC's objective, to simply persuade Brian Williams to resign than choose to serve in such a potentially embarrassing position. So far, I have not seen any formal statements from either NBC or their former Nightly News anchor. All I have seen are "reports." There are different news sources, but most carry a similar message as the Washington Post, which reported: "Brian Williams will return to NBC News but will no longer serve as anchor of its signature newscast, 'Nightly News,' various media outlets reported Wednesday evening. Lester Holt, who has anchored the program since Williams was suspended in February, will continue to be the face of the program."

What Williams will do at MSNBC even remains in doubt, according to the Post: "It's unclear what role he'll fulfill or when he will resume working at the network." Back when MSNBC debuted in 1996, Williams was the lead anchor. It is hard to imagine him willing to go back to a position he held two decades ago.

The bigger question, though, is what is NBC thinking? For years MSNBC has been the most overtly political of all the major news site. It is a network full of individuals who have occupied activist positions (such as Al Sharpton) and editorial spots (such as Chris Matthews), rather than considered traditional journalists. Is MSNBC now saying it is a network that is appropriate for liars? MSNBC has long had a ratings problem and has recently been found to be "down double digits," according to TV Newser. On some very important times of the day, the network cannot even reach six digits in viewership. One of the best questions about MSNBC came from The Daily Beast, with the headline, "Why is Brian Williams Good Enough for MSNBC, but not NBC?" Is Williams move designed to bolster the struggling network or to simply finish it off? Regardless of the objective in moving Williams to MSNBC, one has to wonder out loud, what does this move say about the network when it comes to the importance of veracity in journalism?

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