Will NBC's Williams get promised second chance?

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Will NBC's Williams get promised second chance?
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 06: (Exclusive Coverage) Dorothea Bon Jovi, Brian Williams, Jane Williams and Jon Bon Jovi attend the after party for 'Hamilton' Broadway opening night at Pier 60 on August 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Brian Williams attends the Boston Bruins vs New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden on February 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
Journalist Brian Williams hosts onstage at The Lincoln Awards: A Concert For Veterans & The Military Family presented by The Friars Foundation at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on January 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for The Friars Club)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (l-r) General Wayne A. Downing and Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' during a report from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actress Allison Williams, center, poses with her parents NBC News anchor Brian Williams and Jane Williams at HBO's "Girls" fourth season premiere party at The American Museum of Natural History on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07: Journalist Brian Williams hosts onstage at The Lincoln Awards: A Concert For Veterans & The Military Family presented by The Friars Foundation at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on January 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Friars Club)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (l-r) Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno, Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' and General Wayne A. Downing in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (third from left) Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' with American military reports from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (c) Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' with American military reports from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (c) Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' with American military reports from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2014 file photo, Brian Williams speaks at the 8th Annual Stand Up For Heroes, presented by New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York. Williams has admitted he spread a false story about being on a helicopter that came under enemy fire while he was reporting in Iraq in 2003. Williams said he was in a helicopter following other aircraft, one of which was hit by ground fire. His helicopter was not hit. NBC News was not commenting Thursday about whether its top on-air personality would face disciplinary action. (Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP, File)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0196 -- Pictured: (l-r) Journalist Brian Williams during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on January 16, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 065 -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Brian Williams during an interview with host Seth Meyers on July 7, 2014 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Ron Meyer (L), president & COO of Universal Studios and Brian Williams, NBC network news anchorman, attend the world premiere of 'Neighbors,' April 28, 2014 at the Regency Village Theater in Los Angeles, California. Man at right in unidentified. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NBC NEWS-EVENTS -- Education Nation: New York Summit, Day 3 -- Pictured: Brian Williams at NBC News' Education Nation Summit at the New York Public Library in New York on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS-EVENTS -- Education Nation: New York Summit, Day 3 -- Pictured: Brian Williams and Governor Mitt Romney at NBC News' Education Nation Summit at the New York Public Library in New York on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lauer and Brian Williams appear on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: NBC News anchor Brian Williams and his wife, Jane Stoddard Williams attend the Tribeca Talks Directors Series with Robert De Niro and Brian Williams during the 10th annual Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 23, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)
NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS -- Pictured: Brian Williams -- As protesters converged on the heart of Cairo in droves on Tuesday, NBC News' Brian Williams was there to speak with those who responded to the call for Egyptians to unite in the largest protest yet in a week of unceasing demands for President Hosni Mubarak to leave (Photo by Subrata De/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, speaks at the Women's Conference Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010, in Long Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Event co-hosts Brian Williams, left, and Katie Couric at the "Stand Up To Cancer" television event at Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. The fundraising event aimed to raise funds for cancer research was simulcast live on several network and cable television stations. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
NBC News Anchor Brian Williams attends the premiere screening of 'Faces of America With Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.' at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
** FILE ** In this May 28, 2008 file photo, CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, center, NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams, left, and ABC "World News" anchor Charles Gibson, right, are interviewed on the NBC 'Today' show in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)
NBC commentator Brian Williams talks to the crowd who assembled to hear the first Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2008 election hosted by South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C., Thursday, April 26, 2007. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Brian Williams, with the NBC Nightly News, reports from the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday, April 16, 2007. A gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history Monday. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Stephanie Klein-Davis)
Brian Williams, left, anchor of "NBC Nightly News," talks about the program along with Steve Capus, president of NBC News, at the Summer Television Critics Association press tour Friday, July 21, 2006, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Photo by: Jackson Lee/starmaxinc.com �2005 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Telephone/Fax: (212) 995-1196 11/16/05 Brian Williams and wife at an American Museum of Natural History Benefit. (NYC) (Star Max via AP Images)
NBC's Brian Williams smiles during a news conference Tuesday, May 28, 2002, in New York. Williams will succeed Tom Brokaw as anchorman of NBC's "Nightly News" in 2004, as NBC becomes the first of the three networks to announce a succession plan for their chief anchors. (AP Photo/ Diane Bondareff)
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NEW YORK (AP) - In handing Brian Williams a six-month suspension for misleading viewers, NBC Universal chief Steve Burke says his chief anchor deserves a second chance. Whether he actually gets one is an open question.

Time is renowned for its healing powers but in this case, time also offers reasons for the split to become permanent. NBC Universal bought time with the suspension, hoping to remove an unflattering spotlight on its most prominent personality after he falsely reported flying in a helicopter hit by an enemy grenade in the Iraq War.

Veteran Lester Holt will fill in. With "Nightly News" atop the ratings for almost all of Williams' decade-long tenure as its lead anchor - and back into the 1990s with Tom Brokaw - Holt will be watched closely to see if he can maintain that lead. If he can, that may lessen NBC's desire to bring back a more costly anchor with doubts cast on his trustworthiness.

ABC in the past year maintained and even improved its "World News Tonight" ratings after replacing well-known anchor Diane Sawyer with David Muir. That indicates viewers care more about the content of the broadcasts than its anchors, said Andrew Tyndall, a consultant who monitors the evening newscasts.

"Not only is (Williams) dispensable, the business model is wrong," he said.

Larry King Thinks Brian Williams Should Host Jeopardy!

Even with the suspension, NBC has kept open its investigation into Williams' tendency to embellish stories of his work experiences. NBC News President Deborah Turness said that NBC Universal's general counsel has joined investigative editor Richard Esposito in the probe.

Some critics believe Williams is already so ethically compromised that it would be difficult for him to work an election campaign, whether viewers would accept him asking a presidential candidate, for example, to account for conflicting statements on an issue.

"The suspension so wounds him," said Frank Sesno, a George Washington University professor and former CNN Washington bureau chief. "If the offense is sufficiently severe to warrant a six-month suspension, how does one recover stature and credibility?"

Williams has declined to comment on his suspension, and the head-spinning aspect of his fall from grace may have precluded him from thinking about his future. He may decide he doesn't want to continue in his present role, or at NBC, with the six months offering him and NBC Universal a chance to negotiate a settlement.

Williams' hiring as chief anchor predates Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal, which would leave some question about the loyalty of its executives toward him. Embarrassing headlines about NBC News also aren't welcome at a time Comcast Corp. is still seeking federal approval of its purchase of Time Warner Cable.

With all these caveats, and the strong words of Williams' bosses about his wrongdoing, a clear pathway back was publicly offered.

"I know Brian loves his country, NBC News and his colleagues," Burke said. "He deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him. Brian has shared his deep remorse with me and he is committed to winning back everyone's trust."

Comeback stories are popular, as are stories about the downfall of powerful people. Williams' explanation of misremembering some facts ignited online ridicule of him. A more humble apology, admitting he fudged a story to make himself look good, may strike viewers as more believable.

NBC's handling of the apology, and Saturday's curious announcement from Williams that he was taking himself off the broadcast -- as opposed to his bosses ordering him to -- has also cast negative attention on NBC News management.

Turness has had a rough run as NBC News president: the "Today" show has shown little progress chasing "Good Morning America," and was embarrassed by the quick hiring and firing of an executive who created backstage turmoil; medical correspondent Nancy Snyderman angered the public by violating a quarantine for Ebola exposure proved ; "Meet the Press" has sunk in the ratings and David Gregory's exit as moderator played out uncomfortably in public, and now Williams, who had been the network's bright spot.

Not all are her fault, yet managers of losing teams get only so many chances.

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