Brian Williams Lawyers Up

NBC News anchor Brian Williams has accepted a six-month unpaid suspension, but his long-term future and his personal fortune could hang on a "morality clause" in his contract with the network.

According to The New York Post, Williams has hired prominent attorney Robert B. Barnett to represent him as network news bosses consider his future, in the midst of public revelations that their news anchor misstated or misremembered details of at least one and maybe more events he reported on for NBC News.

Barnett has been described as "a super-duper Washington operator" who represents 375 journalists as well as political figures including Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

The Post reports that the employment contract between Williams and the network contains a "morality clause" that might be cited as cause to terminate it.

That boilerplate language, commonly seen in contracts for employees who represent a company before the public, states that the employee may be fired if he brings upon himself "public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule."

In December, Williams signed a new five-year contract with the network for a reported $10 million a year. At the time, NBC News President Deborah Turness described Williams as "one of the most trusted journalists of our time."

At least for now, Williams may have a forgiving public to cite in his own defense. A new poll by media consulting firm Magid Associates shows that a majority of loyal viewers of network news thought that Williams could earn back his credibility in time. More than 80 percent of viewers said their perceptions of the credibility of NBC News were unchanged.

However, the pollster points out that public perceptions can change over six months, the period that Williams will definitely be off the air.

These days, a celebrity suffering from an embarrassing incident has a whole World Wide Web of jokers to make the experience more excruciating. Williams is now the subject of memes that add his familiar mug to historic images of the Apollo moon landing and the Gettysburg battlefield, among others.

Brian Williams spoof, internet meme
Twitter @DutraWeather Brian Williams reports from the moon, in an internet meme.

In fact, Williams' troubles began with a Facebook posting by a military veteran who scoffed at the anchor's assertion that he was aboard a Chinook helicopter that was shot by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. As he later admitted, Williams was on board another helicopter that was not hit.
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