Lester Don Holt Jr. (born March 8, 1959) is an American journalist who anchors the weekday edition of NBC Nightly News. He is also the anchor for Dateline NBC. On February 9, 2015, he became the interim weeknight NBC Nightly News anchor, filling in for suspended anchor and managing editor Brian Williams. On June 18, 2015, he was made the permanent anchor of NBC Nightly News after NBC decided to keep Brian Williams as MSNBC breaking news anchor and reporter and fill-in NBC News breaking news anchor and reporter.
Holt was born in Marin County, California, the son of June (DeRozario) and Lester Don Holt, Sr. His paternal grandparents were Jamaican. His maternal grandfather was of half English and half Indian descent.
He graduated from Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova, California, in 1977 and attended California State University, Sacramento, and majored in government, though he never graduated. In 2012, Holt told American Profile news magazine: "My first on-air job was actually as a disc jockey at a Country and Western station. The only time I could land a full-time gig was if I was willing to report the news." Holt would keep the job with the radio station through his college years.
Holt spent 19 years with CBS beginning in 1981, when he was hired as a reporter for WCBS-TV in New York City. In 1982, he became a reporter and weekend anchor on KNXT in Los Angeles, and the next year he returned to WCBS-TV as a reporter and weekend anchor. In 1986, Holt moved to WBBM-TV in Chicago, where he spent 14 years anchoring the evening news. Holt not only worked at the anchor desk, but also reported extensively from troubled spots around the world including Iraq, Northern Ireland, Somalia, El Salvador and Haiti.
Holt joined MSNBC in 2000. In 2003, he assumed full-time duties at NBC News, where he became a substitute anchor for NBC Nightly News and Today. Holt became a full-time co-anchor of Weekend Today following the untimely death of previous co-anchor David Bloom. Until late 2005, he also anchored a two-hour daily newscast on MSNBC. On May 9, 2007, Holt was named anchor of the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News, succeeding John Seigenthaler. He also is a current host for NBC's Dateline.
In addition to his primary responsibilities at NBC News, he hosted a special for The History Channel about the 9/11 conspiracy theories, served as a sportsdesk reporter for NBC Sports coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics, and is the host of Dateline on ID, an edition of Dateline NBC shown on the Investigation Discovery network. In 2008, he narrated a documentary regarding the actual crystal skulls on the Sci-Fi Channel.
From August 6, 2013, to September 2, 2013, Brian Williams was on medical leave in order to undergo right knee replacement surgery. Weekend anchor Lester Holt was interim anchor in his absence.
As a result of controversy after Williams admitted that he had exaggerated a story about the Iraq War, Williams announced on February 7, 2015, that he would take a temporary leave of absence from anchoring the Nightly News and that Holt would cover in his absence. Three days later, Williams was suspended without pay for six months, with Holt filling in as weekday anchor during that period. On June 17, 2015, NBC decided to keep Holt as its permanent NBC Nightly News anchor, while reassigning Williams to MSNBC at the end of his suspension.
Holt moderated the Democratic presidential candidates' debate in January 2016 alongside a panel of NBC political reporters, as well as the first presidential debate on September 26, 2016. Presidential candidate Donald Trump said that this was "a very unfair system" because "Lester is a Democrat". Holt is a registered Republican. After the debate, Trump said that Holt did a good job. Journalists also said that Holt did a good job, for example, in challenging Trump when he said that he originally opposed the war in Iraq.
Holt has made cameo appearances in the 1993 film The Fugitive, its 1998 sequel, U.S. Marshals; and Primal Fear (1996); as well as on television shows like the episode "Red, White, or Blue" of the series Due South, "Fate" of Early Edition and "A New Hope" of Warehouse 13. He also appeared on the episode "Cleveland" of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. He also did a voice-over in the episode "Sandwich Day", announcing that Jack Donaghy would be a new cabinet member in the Bush administration. Holt announced the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for the USA Network and was also featured in Making Music magazine.
Holt resides in Manhattan with his wife, Carol Hagen. They have two sons, Stefan and Cameron. Stefan Holt graduated in 2009 from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and was the morning news anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in Chicago. In 2016, Stefan moved to the same floor as his father's Nightly News when joining WNBC. In his spare time, Lester plays the bass guitar, which he talked about in the September/October 2009 issue of Making Music magazine.
Holt attends the Manhattan Church of Christ in New York.
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