Home News NBC will cut ties with former RNC head Ronna McDaniel

NBC will cut ties with former RNC head Ronna McDaniel


NBC will cut ties with former RNC head Ronna McDaniel

NEW YORK — NBC News will cut ties with former Republican National Committee chief Ronna McDaniel, hired last week as an on-air political contributor, following a furious protest by some of its journalists and commentators, according to a memo from the top official of the network’s news division.

The communication to network staff Tuesday from NBC News Group Chairman Cesar Conde comes four days after the network said that McDaniel had joined as a paid contributor to offer political analysis over all of its platforms, including the liberal cable news network MSNBC.

In announcing the decision in a memo, NBC Universal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde apologized to staff members who felt let down by the hire, acknowledging he had signed off on it.

“No organization, particularly a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesive and aligned,” Conde wrote. “Over the last few days, it has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal.”

There was no immediate comment from McDaniel. She found out she lost her job through media reports, not from NBC directly, said a person close to her who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

NBC announced Friday that McDaniel would contribute commentary across network platforms, saying that it wanted the perspective of someone with inside knowledge about the Republican Party and former President Donald Trump heading in to the 2024 election.

The response from journalists and others within the network was swift — and public. Former “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd criticized his bosses on the air Sunday for the hire, saying he didn’t know what to believe from her after she supported former President Donald Trump in “gaslighting” and “character assassination” following the 2020 election.

An extraordinary succession of MSNBC hosts — Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, Nicolle Wallace, Jen Psaki and Lawrence O’Donnell — all publicly protested the decision to hire McDaniel on their shows Monday.

“It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to acknowledge that you’re wrong,” Maddow said on her show.

Republicans countered that the protest indicates that people at NBC News, particularly at MSNBC, were unwilling to countenance opposing viewpoints. The hiring, and quick firing, represents one of those rare instances likely to unite the left and right — in anger.

“NBC caving in to the censors,” Elon Musk, owner of X, formerly Twitter, posted on his platform.

Those who protested her hiring claimed that it wasn’t because McDaniel is a Republican, but it was because she helped promote Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election and assisted in efforts to overturn the results.

Efforts by news organizations to hire former politicians is hardly new. NBC News hired Psaki directly from her job as press secretary to President Joe Biden, and another former Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, hosts a weekend show on MSNBC.

But there are concerns that the McDaniel episode may make it difficult for networks to find voices this year that can provide insight into Trump and his campaign.

Maddow, MSNBC’s most popular personality, compared it to putting a mobster to work in a district attorney’s office.

“I find the decision to put her on the payroll inexplicable and I hope they will reconsider that decision,” she said on her weekly program Monday night.

The network announced McDaniel’s hiring on Friday, two weeks after she stepped down as the RNC leader, saying McDaniel would add to NBC News’ coverage with an insider’s perspective on national politics and the future of the Republican Party.

Maddow said she’d been told that MSNBC management had signed off on the hiring, but that when staff “expressed outrage,” it was made clear that McDaniel would not appear on the cable network, which appeals primarily to liberal viewers. Since then, she said there’s been an effort in other parts of the company to “muddy that up in the press” and make it seem like that’s not what happened.

“I can assure you, that is what happened at MSNBC,” she said.

Maddow told her viewers — and presumably her bosses — that “it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to acknowledge that you’re wrong.”

The on-air MSNBC rebellion stretched from pre-dawn to late in the evening, starting with “Morning Joe” hosts Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski promising viewers they would not see McDaniel in her NBC News capacity. Brzezinski said it’s fair to seek Republican voices to balance election coverage, but “not a person who used her position of power to be an anti-democracy election denier.”

Wallace said that with the hiring, NBC has said to election deniers “not just that they can do that on our airwaves, but that they can do that as one of us, a badge-carrying employee of NBC News, as a paid contributor to our sacred airwaves.”

Said O’Donnell: “There is an easy way to avoid the controversy that NBC News has stumbled into. Don’t hire anyone close to the crimes.”

Psaki said she decided to speak up because, as a former press secretary to President Joe Biden, her name has been used by McDaniel supporters to point out that a former Democratic political appointee was hired by MSNBC without internal objection.

She said that for a television personality, that kind of experience in government “only matters and only has value to viewers if it is paired with honesty and good faith.”

One of those GOP critics was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who mentioned Psaki among several others who switched to news after working in politics for Democrats, including the late “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert.

“But NBC hired a Republican??!!” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “It’s the end of the world.”

In a social media posting on Monday, Todd said that those who are trying to make it an issue of left vs. right were being intentionally dishonest. “This is about whether honest journalists are supposed to lend their credibility to someone who intentionally tried to ruin ours,” he said.

The “Morning Joe” hosts aired an exchange from McDaniel’s interview the day before on “Meet the Press” with current moderator Kristen Welker, who wondered why the former RNC chairwoman didn’t speak up earlier after saying Sunday she disagreed with Trump’s contention that people jailed for their part in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol should be freed.

“When you’re the RNC chair you kind of take one for the whole team, right?” McDaniel said. “Now I get to be a little bit more myself, right? This is what I believe.”

It’s not unusual for television news outlets to hire politicians as analysts and commentators. One of McDaniel’s predecessors at the RNC, Michael Steele, is an MSNBC contributor who hosts a weekend news program there. CBS News faced some backlash for hiring two former officials in the Trump administration, Reince Priebus and Mick Mulvaney, as analysts. Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former White House communications director during the Trump administration, became a CNN political commentator.

But McDaniel’s tacit endorsement of Trump’s false claims that the outcome of the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent makes her hiring even more sensitive, given the continuing legal and political ripples of the Jan. 6, 2021, siege at the U.S. Capitol that was an outgrowth of the fraud allegations.

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