Lester Holt a Year After Replacing Brian Williams: ‘This Wasn’t About Us’

By Mark Joyella 

It’s been more than a year since NBC News formally replaced Brian Williams with Lester Holt as anchor of the NBC Nightly News.

Thirteen months later, Nightly is No. 1, and inside NBC News, the atmosphere of chaos has calmed. Insiders say that’s largely due to Holt himself. “During a period of time that was uneasy, he was a calming influence,” recently named Nightly News executive producer Sam Singal told The Hollywood Reporter. “It made for the easiest possible transition given the circumstances.”

THR named Holt one of its “35 Most Powerful People in Media,” list, to be released in the New York issue Wednesday. In it, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack says “What I like about Lester, he is not a careerist. He’s not angling. He was never angling.” How did he react to being given Williams’ job? “His first reaction was for Brian; ‘How’s Brian doing? Is he OK?'”

Holt tells THR he felt for his friend Williams, but “one of the things I made clear–we both made clear to each other–this wasn’t about us. It was the situation. I have tremendous respect for Brian.”

Holt reveals he did have a moment when the news sunk in:

“When I got the call, the one thing I didn’t have to ask myself was, ‘Why me?” he says. “I’m perfectly qualified. I have always thought that I can play any position in this organization. There was an [he mouths the words ‘oh shit’] moment. But not, ‘Why me?'”