Granderson: Keep the Ronna McDaniels off the air. The Sean Spicers and Kellyanne Conways too

MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: Ronna McDaniel, Former Republican National Committee Chair, appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington D.C., Sunday March 24, 2024. -- (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images)
Ronna McDaniel, former Republican National Committee chair, ever so fleetingly worked for NBC. (William B. Plowman / NBC / Getty Images)

Ever wonder what agents at the Central Intelligence Agency were thinking the day their new commander in chief used CIA headquarters as the backdrop for lies about his inauguration crowd? Donald Trump getting the weather wrong was innocuous. But it had to be unnerving to see someone so powerful be so dishonest about something so easily disproved with a $20 drone.

That embarrassing piece of American history embodies Trump’s fragile ego and the distance those around him were willing to go to protect it.

One example in the news this week is Ronna McDaniel, the former Republican National Committee chair, who was recently hired and then let go by NBC. It was as if, before they hired her, NBC executives didn’t know she tried to help Trump overturn the 2020 election.

Despite the recording.

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At any rate, the question of “How do we cover Trump?” — the one that has been haunting the news industry since he became the face of the birther movement — is also shadowed by a query of equal importance: "What do we do with his people?"

The ones with insight, like McDaniel, and complicity, like McDaniel.

Remember hours after Trump lied to the CIA about the crowd size back in January 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to tell a room full of journalists that the former president had “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

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When the pushback came, he doubled down, tossing his credibility off a cliff.

Less than two years later he was on “Dancing With the Stars” dressed like a frozen daiquiri, looking for salvation. And somehow, he found it, nestled somewhere between credible and discredited source. Much like his former White House colleague Kellyanne Conway — the first woman to successfully run a presidential campaign. She appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to defend Spicer, suggesting he was offering “alternative facts” about the crowd size.

It was hard to believe anything she said before that moment. Afterward...

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Anyway, it was not a surprise that NBC bosses found resistance within the company regarding putting McDaniel on the air, especially given the influential voices of its left-leaning sister network, MSNBC.

Why would a network even want someone like McDaniel, whose reputation has been destroyed? It’s not like featuring President Nixon on “Laugh-In” — that was before the Watergate scandal.

Media outlets are hungry for Trump-driven ratings and content. There’s a market for comments from people who regret helping him early on and those who would gladly do it all over again. And somewhere in that ecosystem are air puppets like McDaniel — flailing spinelessly about, hoping to monetize the insight they gained from participating in a failed coup.

In 2018, giving a platform to rehabilitate the image of folks like Spicer was questionable. Political aide Omarosa Manigault left Trump and tried cleansing herself with a tell-all book (as if we didn’t already know) and a spot on “Celebrity Big Brother.” Chris Christie went from leading Trump’s transition team to being a contributor at ABC News (where I am also employed). Alyssa Farah Griffin, Trump’s former director of strategic communications, left the nest and found sanctuary on “The View.”

But in 2024, with everything that we know about Trump’s plot to overturn the election through our court system and personal attempts to prevent votes from being certified, it is clear people like McDaniel do not represent anything other than themselves. They don’t speak for a political party. And as such, whatever analysis they provide about the current political landscape isn’t based on anything bigger than self-interest.

We shouldn’t be too surprised that they’re using the same playbook that the Trump White House drew from back in 2017. After the president made those false claims at CIA headquarters — about a televised event that took place less than 10 miles away in broad daylight the day before — it didn’t take a high-level analyst to see through the lies. And yet instead of issuing a correction, the administration offered “alternative facts” to protect Trump’s fragile ego. Just as McDaniel peddled alternative facts to 2020 voters in hopes of doing the same.

It still isn’t clear what are the best practices for covering Trump, but when it comes to the other people who nearly cost us everything, I know where they can go.

And it’s not television.


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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.