After a six-month suspension, Brian Williams returned to TV in his new role -- with a new set and a new demeanor. The former anchor of "NBC Nightly News" appeared with no fanfare.
"Good day, I'm Brian Williams at MSNBC headquarters here in New York," Williams said against the orange-and-white background of his new stage peppered with staff members at work on their computers. "In a short time, Pope Francis will arrive in this country for the first time."
Williams was without his usual punchy style or camera mugging as he played the coverage straight and by the book. With only a few minutes to himself at the start of the broadcast, Williams provided context for the pope's visit before throwing to MSNBC's White House correspondent Chris Jansing.
The chatter surrounding Williams' return was replete with jokes about how Williams, recovering his reputation from embellished and fabricated stories about his time in Iraq, could certainly use a bit of help from a holy presence such as the pope. But Williams made no reference to his ordeal of the past few months, jumping straight into the coverage.
"Brian Williams picks up our special coverage next," the sparse lead-in to Williams' segment said, before a special graphic marking the pope's coverage faded into Williams at MSNBC's new breaking-news desk.
Williams had already delivered a public apology in a sit-down interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today."
Over the course of the two-day interview, Williams apologized for telling stories “that were not true,” but he insisted: "I was not trying to mislead people.”
"It came from a bad place. It came from a sloppy choice of words,” Williams told Lauer, saying that his embellishments and fabrications were symptoms of his ego after making it big.
"Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, who joined Williams in covering the pope Tuesday, praised NBC in June for how it handled the scandal. “I’m proud of how this network dealt with this,” he said. “Took it seriously. Took issues of credibility and integrity seriously and made Brian pay a heavy price.”
Todd added that he was “glad to work for a company that provides an opportunity to earn back trust and earn back a second chance."
Williams' credibility unraveled in February after the military paper Stars and Stripes discovered that he had repeatedly told a bogus story about being hit by rocket fire in a helicopter while covering the Iraq War in 2003. NBC suspended Williams and began an investigation into his past statements and reporting. The network eventually replaced him permanently on "NBC Nightly News" with veteran journalist Lester Holt.
International Business Times reported Monday that however deftly Williams resumes his on-air duties, he's a key part of a new breaking-news strategy at MSNBC, which has produced an entirely new set in the middle of the newsroom, displacing several employees, some permanently.