MSNBC Pres. on Brian Williams: ‘We Missed Him Over the Last Few Months’

By Chris Ariens 

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Willie Geist and Janet Mock were added to the MSNBC bill as co-hosts of this year’s TV production of the Global Citizen Festival, joining Alex Wagner who was back for a second year. MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts was backstage as co-hosts Stephen Colbert, Hugh Jackman and others took shifts emceeing the six-hour Central Park concert, which was turned into a seven-and-a-half hour special on MSNBC.

“MSNBC is the perfect kind of place,” for an event like Global Citizens, network president Phil Griffin told TVNewser as the event was getting underway.

“The notion of encouraging people to get rid of global poverty by 2030 is a good one, and you need to amplify those kinds of messages,” Griffin said.

Among the headliners entertaining the nearly 60,000 strong in Central Park: Coldplay, Common, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Usher and Beyoncé. Pearl Jam closed this year’s event. At the end of their set, Beyoncé joined Eddie Vedder performing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

The event fell in the middle of one of the busiest stretches in New York in recent memory, with the Pope departing just this morning for Philadelphia, and world leaders gathering for the U.N. General Assembly, as well as the annual Clinton Global Initiative gathering, and Advertising Week.

For MSNBC, the week also saw the return of Brian Williams in the anchor chair.

“It couldn’t have gone any better,” Griffin told us. “It was a great week. Thirty seconds in you realize how great Brian is. We missed him over the last few months. I love he fact that we have someobody of that stature on our air,” said Griffin.

Williams’ return co-incides with MSNBC’s new focus on breaking news during its daytime schedule. “There’s a positive energy in the building. We couldn’t be in a better place,” Griffin said.