The shakeups at problem-plagued NBC News continued on Thursday with the abrupt resignation of Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the news division’s chief medical editor who got herself into trouble last October when she violated a self-imposed 21-day home quarantine after reporting on the Ebola epidemic in Liberia.
It turned out that Snyderman, 62, a nine-year veteran of NBC, didn’t contract the often-fatal disease while in West Africa, where a freelance NBC News cameraman contracted the disease.
But she never recovered from the professional damage caused by embarrassing publicity after she was caught picking up a takeout meal at a strip mall near her home in Princeton, N.J.
The headlines about Snyderman’s lapse in judgment caused strain with NBC executives, including news division president Deborah Turness.
Newsday television reporter Verne Gay noted that during Snyderman’s final appearance on the NBC Nightly News on Feb. 22—in a segment about peanut allergies—“she seemed somewhat disoriented and stumbled over her words.”
A source close to Snyderman told The Daily Beast that “the reason Nancy might have seemed to be slurring her speech is that she takes statins to control her cholesterol and her prescription had just been raised. As I’m sure you know, increasing the dose of statins often causes slurred speech, especially in women her age.”
This source added that “one of the main reasons she is leaving is because her father died last June, her mother is ill and moving in with her, which as I’m sure you can relate, is just not compatible with the lifestyle of being a broadcast journalist who is traveling all over the world.”
Incoming NBC News Chairman Andy Lack—who will return in April to oversee the news operation he ran from 1993 to 2001—was said not to be a key player in Snyderman’s departure. Apparently, internal discussions about the terms of her separation were started well before Lack began talking seriously with NBC Universal chief Stephen Burke about making his own comeback.
NBC News released a statement from Snyderman obliquely acknowledging her Ebola mistake—for which she apologized, and which received severe criticism from medical professionals at the time—and saying she plans to join the faculty of an unnamed medical school.
“I stepped out of the OR a few years ago and it is now time for me to return to my roots, so I am stepping down from my position as Chief Medical Editor at NBC News,” Snyderman said in her statement. “Covering the Ebola epidemic last fall in Liberia, and then becoming part of the story upon my return to the U.S., contributed to my decision that now is the time to return to academic medicine.
“I will be shortly taking up a faculty position at a major U.S. medical school. More needs to be done to communicate medicine and science to our viewers and citizens, especially in times of crisis, and with my experiences in the field and on air, that is going to be a priority for me.”
Snyderman added: “I have loved my nine years at NBC and I am proud of the work my team has done. Very few people get the chance to combine two professions and I have appreciated the chance to inform the public about medical updates and the plight of so many in other countries. Every moment has been an honor.”
An NBC News spokesperson said: “Throughout her career with NBC News, Dr. Nancy Snyderman has provided her expertise on countless health and medical topics that are vitally important to our audience. She’s been a valuable voice both on air and in our newsroom, and we wish her all the best.”