New York Magazine recaps the Brian Williams and Today show debacles along with other messes that incoming NBC News Chairman Andy Lack will try to clean up when he takes over the Peacock Network’s troubled news division in April. The much-anticipated story claims that before Williams’s downfall for embellishing his Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina experiences, the lead anchor was so ambivalent about staying at NBC Nightly News that he pitched himself to CBS chief Leslie Moonves as a late-night replacement for the retiring David Letterman. Moonves passed, the magazine reports. The story also says that contrary to speculation, Lack—who developed close relationships with on-air talent when he first ran NBC News from 1993 to 2001—told staffers during a meet-and-greet at 30 Rock on Friday that he has not spoken to Katie Couric about a role at the network.
Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of New York’s story—at least for NBC News President Deborah Turness, who will be answering to Lack—is its assertion that before firing former ESPN programming executive Jamie Horowitz as he was tactlessly preparing to take control of the Today show brand and causing high anxiety among cast members, she enthusiastically endorsed all of his proposed on-air talent changes, including replacing news reader Natalie Morales with former Good Morning America presenter Josh Elliott, and dumping Savannah Guthrie for fourth-hour host Hoda Kotb. Turness wanted to make even bigger changes, the mag claims, quoting her as telling Horowitz, “This is not aggressive enough of a plan.” If true, that will do nothing to help Turness’s frayed relationship with NBC’s most powerful and best-paid anchor, Today show star Matt Lauer.