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Brian Williams expected to stay at NBC after 6-month suspension

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(GETTY IMAGES)

NEW YORK — Brian Williams is down, but not out.

NBC and Williams have come to a tentative agreement that will keep Williams at the network after his six-month suspension ends in August.

The decision, described by people with knowledge of the plan, ends months of speculation that Williams could leave NBC altogether.

Williams will not be returning to the “NBC Nightly News” anchor chair, the people said. Instead he will have a new role; the details of it are unknown to all but a very small number of executives.

“No one knows anything,” one anchor at the network complained Wednesday.

But that may change very soon: NBC is likely to make an announcement about Williams’ future on Thursday, the people with knowledge of the plan said.

In addition, Lester Holt, Williams’ fill-in for the past 4 months, will become the permanent anchor of “Nightly News.”

The appointment makes Holt the first black solo anchor of a weekday network nightly newscast.

Holt is on vacation this week — his first extended period of time off since Williams was suspended in February.

As for Williams’ future at the network, the options are numerous, given that NBC News is an arm of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.

Inside NBC, speculation about Williams’ future has centered on MSNBC, its cable news channel, which is suffering from weak ratings.

The New York Times reported Thursday evening that Williams’ new role will primarily be at the cable channel, “probably in a breaking-news capacity in the beginning.”

That would be a homecoming of sorts for Williams, who anchored a signature 9 p.m. newscast on the cable channel back in the late 1990s, before ascending to “Nightly News.”

Another scenario for Williams could entail a roving reporter job, somewhat like Ann Curry’s job after she was forced off the “Today” show in 2012.

In recent days, Williams’ attorney Bob Barnett has been ensconced in meetings with top NBC executives. Among the topics on the table: Where, when and how Williams will express regret for the storytelling exaggerations that led to his February suspension.

Barnett and a spokesman for NBC News declined to comment on Wednesday evening.

The decision — reached by NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke and new NBC News chair Andy Lack — will come as a relief to the people that have been rooting for Williams, but will also raise questions about what exactly NBC found in its internal investigation of the anchorman.

The investigation was prompted by revelations that Williams had wrongly recounted an Iraq War mission in 2003. (Williams had said he’d been aboard a helicopter that was forced down by a rocket-propelled grenade, when in fact he had been on a different chopper.)

NBC’s investigators reportedly turned up a number of other misstatements and exaggerations. But the network hasn’t said anything about it, so it remains unclear how serious the other instances were.

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