The cable network, which inherited Williams as a breaking news anchor after he was bumped from “NBC Nightly News” following an exhaustive internal probe into his tall tales, decided against sending its key anchors to New Orleans, to avoid awkward references to the Williams scandal.
Williams had been due to start his new job at MSNBC in August, but that date was pushed back to mid-September. Meanwhile, NBC has a big team on the ground in New Orleans, including Williams’ successor, Lester Holt, who is anchoring “NBC Nightly News” live from Jackson Square on Friday.
An insider told us, “MSNBC is sensitive about Brian Williams and his reporting on Katrina. None of their anchors are there this weekend. Brian’s mid-September start date was carefully scheduled to avoid the Katrina anniversary, among other considerations.”
Williams had spoken of seeing a dead body float past his hotel, the Ritz-Carlton in the French Quarter. He said that gangs had “overrun” the place and claimed that he got dysentery and the hotel had no medicine. But then-manager Myra DeGersdorff said the Ritz-Carlton was secure, there had been a medical unit on-site, and told the Washington Post, “Maybe he misremembered . . . It wasn’t impossible he could have encountered a body, but I don’t think it was in the French Quarter. The French Quarter only got inches” of flooding.
MSNBC has respected national correspondent Trymaine D. Lee, who won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of Katrina as part of a team at New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, on the ground in that city. Lee will be filing reports for MSBNC and will appear on “Meet the Press.”
An MSNBC rep said Thursday, “Trymaine will be reporting live from New Orleans today and throughout the weekend for MSNBC and NBC News across all platforms. Kerry Sanders, Gabe Gutierrez and Mark Potter will also contribute across the NBC network and MSNBC.”