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Do not foist Brian Williams on MSNBC

Erik Wemple talks about the fate of embattled NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Via CNN’s Brian Stelter comes the news that suspended NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams is “expected” to stay in some role at the network, though he won’t be settling back into his marquee position. Just what he’ll end up doing, notes Stelter, is a closely guarded bit of information, and “speculation” at the network — which sometimes doubles as trial balloons — centers on a few options:

Inside NBC, speculation about Williams’ future has centered on MSNBC, its cable news channel, which is suffering from weak ratings. Another scenario could entail a roving reporter job, somewhat like Ann Curry’s job after she was forced off the “Today” show in 2012.

Bold text added to highlight a scenario that would be more destructive than, say, a scandal in which the network’s public face is outed as a teller of extremely tall tales.

Putting aside the structural problem that liberals are splintered in their brand loyalties, MSNBC has caused a great deal of its struggles. Lifeless programming, tepid panel discussions, excessive liberal agreeing and the occasional nasty comment followed by an excellent apology — these are the dynamics that help to account for the cable channel’s worm-level ratings.

One problem it doesn’t need is Brian Williams. By one count, this is the guy who’s been busted by an internal investigation for 11 quite outrageous embellishments regarding his past. At the same time, Williams is a smooth news delivery vehicle with a high name recognition: If he is unloaded on MSNBC, how much worse can things get?

Considerably. MSNBC’s critics are a motivated bunch and are already busy enough with Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews & Co. Just watch what happens when Williams pilots a report having to do with Iraq or helicopters or Israel. Then again, there really aren’t a lot of places to hide a liability like Williams, whose six-month suspension is up in August. Newsrooms don’t designate set-asides for embellishers.

Williams has said that he knew early on that he wanted to be a journalist. If that’s still the case, let this fellow work his way up the ranks, again; if nothing else, it’s a story he’ll relish telling even more than the first one.