Heeeere's ... Brian?
Lately, it's been hard to tell what fascinates people in the TV news business more — debating whether Brian Williams can return to his anchor chair at NBC or gossiping over his purported ambitions to be a late-night chat-show host.
New York magazine fueled both with a recent story on the woes at NBC News that, citing an anonymous source, claimed that Williams pitched CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves about taking over for David Letterman when he stepped down from his hosting duties at "The Late Show."
As part of his suspension, Williams cannot speak to the media. But there has long been TV industry chatter that Williams fancied a late-night berth, and the Los Angeles Times asked him about it after he signed his new contract in December.
Williams acknowledged that he had had conversations about such a move but said it was others who presented the idea — and that he didn't see it happening.
"It's so apples and oranges with what I do and my skill set," he told The Times in a Dec. 14 email.
"While others have said flattering things about it and me and others have tried to pitch me on ideas — it's one thing to make a guest appearance and it's quite another to do the job of host sitting behind the desk. So again: People have said very flattering things — because people are free to say things … but imagine going from my job to … a monologue? A live audience? Sketches? No way," Williams wrote.
Williams' interest in comedy has become an issue in light of his six-month suspension after making false statements about being in a Chinook helicopter that was forced down by enemy fire during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
CBS declined comment on the matter to New York, and to a query from The Times on Monday. Former Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert will take over the "The Late Show" in September.
While Williams may have made his peace with the idea of remaining at the "Nightly News" anchor desk back in December, he certainly liked the outlet that late-night shows provided for him.
By his own count, Williams had been on Letterman's program 23 times since 1995. He had also become a fixture on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," which featured him in an occasional bit in which he delivered news headlines while the program's house band, the Roots, played a slow, soulful groove underneath.
Friends and colleagues of Williams said they have heard the anchor talk over the years about pursuing other projects, including a late-night show, but never took those musings seriously.
However, those yearnings have come under scrutiny with the recent troubles Williams has faced.
NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke is said to still be open to the idea of Williams returning to the anchor chair if an ongoing internal review of his work finds no other discrepancies.
Lester Holt is currently filling the anchor chair at "NBC Nightly News" while Williams serves the suspension, which began Feb. 11.