Zucker on Williams: ‘Incredibly Serious Mistakes’ Obscure ‘Really Fine Career’

By Brian Flood 

At a lunch for reporters to discuss Bill Weir‘s new show, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker opened with remarks about the death of CBS News correspondent Bob Simon and the suspension of NBC News anchor Brian Williams, (knowing that the roomful of reporters would have asked anyway.) TVNewser sat across from Zucker during the lunch. Here’s what he said:

BobSimon5Zucker on Simon:

There is nobody better than Bob Simon [at storytelling]. It’s a tremendous tragedy. I find it incomprehensible that he would survive everything he has survived around the world and then to go so sadly.

brian-williams-2011-a-lZucker on Williams:

It’s obviously incredibly sad and disappointing to see what’s happened to Brian. He was a colleague [at NBC], and a friend, for many, many years, obviously. So I feel really badly for him on a very human level, because unfortunately this has obscured a lot of really fantastic work that Brian did. But, what is clear is that he made some incredibly serious mistakes and I feel really badly that that’s obscured a really fine career. As far as the punishment, as far as whether he’ll ever come back, I really can’t speak to those because I don’t have all the facts. Those are investigations that are continuing and it would be inappropriate for me to talk about that, because I just don’t have all the facts. The folks at NBC will have to make those decisions and I’m sure that they will with all the information.

We asked Zucker how CNN would cover a story like this, if it had happened to one of their own anchors, specifically, would media reporter Brian Stelter cover it with the same voracity that he’s covered Williams’s downfall.

I think [Stelter’s] done that. We’ve done that before, so I don’t think there would be any issue. There have been things that involve CNN and he has reported on them. I don’t see that there would be any issue and I think you have to, for your own credibility.

We’ll have more with Weir and his new show “The Wonder List,” coming up later on TVNewser.