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Inside NBC as hosts, X and DNC all slam network for hiring ex-RNC chair Ronna McDaniel

The hiring of the recently departed RNC chair Ronna McDaniel as an NBC News on-air contributor is being widely panned as a terrible move by the network – including by its own employees live on air.

Ms McDaniel appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday. Moments later on the programme, the network’s Chief Political Analyst Chuck Todd, the former host of the show, told his successor Kristen Welker: “Let me deal with the elephant in the room. I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in [this] situation.”

“Because I don't know what to believe. She is now a paid contributor by NBC News. I have no idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn't want to mess up her contract,” he added. “She wants us to believe that she was speaking for the RNC when the RNC was paying ... So she has credibility issues that she still has to deal with. Is she speaking for herself? Or is she speaking on behalf of who's paying her?

“There's a reason why there [are] a lot of journalists [at] NBC News [who are] uncomfortable with this because many of our professional dealings with the RNC over the last six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination,” he added.

The ground was broken for Ms McDaniel’s NBC hiring last year when she was approached by NBC executives who wanted a Republican primary debate on their network. Ms McDaniel had the requirement that MSNBC, the cable news channel that former President Donald Trump claims is part of the Democratic machine, would not be allowed to broadcast the debate at the same time, a requirement that NBC bosses accepted, according to Politico.

Ronna McDaniel’s hiring has been criticised on air by prominent figures at NBC and MSNBC (REUTERS)
Ronna McDaniel’s hiring has been criticised on air by prominent figures at NBC and MSNBC (REUTERS)

During this process, Ms McDaniel built a relationship with the senior vice president of politics at NBC, Carrie Budoff Brown, and the president of editorial, Rebecca Blumenstein. When Ms McDaniel departed the RNC, she joined an agency, the CAA, and began looking for TV work, trying to avoid ending up at CNN but speaking to ABC. But NBC, because of those relationships, was always the most likely option.

While all top leaders of all NBC networks backed the hiring, the internal criticism started to flow on Friday following an email from Ms Budoff Brown stating that Ms McDaniel would appear across all platforms.

While the president of MSNBC Rashida Jones backed the hiring, Ms McDaniel is unlikely to appear on the network in the near future, Politico reported.

An unnamed host on MSNBC told the outlet that there was frustration that Ms McDaniel was hired for close to $300,000 a year even amid cuts.

“Across MSNBC they have been cutting contributors,” the host said. “So everyone’s like, what the f***? You found 300 for her?”

The Democratic National Committee joined in the bashing, with DNC chair Jamie Harrison saying in a statement: “The free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy, and has and continues to face unprecedented attacks by Donald Trump and his lackeys – including Ronna McDaniel – to chip away at its credibility and allow space for MAGA lies and deceit.”

“There should be no debate about the truth in our political discourse. Ronna McDaniel is a proven liar, and has no place in an honest and objective conversation about the future of this country,” he added.

Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough piled in on Monday morning.

“We've been inundated with calls this weekend as have most people connected with this network about NBCs decision to hire her,” Scarborough, a former Florida Republican representative in the US House, said. “We learned about the hiring when we read about it in the press on Friday. We weren't asked our opinion of the hiring. But if we were we would have strongly objected to it for several reasons, including, but not limited to, as lawyers might say, Ms McDaniels’s role in Donald Trump's fake elector scheme, and her pressuring election officials to not certify election results while Donald Trump was on the phone.”

“To be clear, we believe NBC News should seek out conservative Republican voices to provide balance in their election coverage,” Brzezinski said. “But it should be conservative Republicans, not a person who used her position of power to be an anti-democracy election denier and we hope NBC will reconsider its decision. It goes without saying that she will not be a guest on Morning Joe in her capacity as a paid contributor.”

NBC News political reporters told Politico that had they been consulted, they would have told their executives that Ms McDaniel would not be a good hire, noting her lack of stature in the anti-Trump wing of the party, her lack of strong congressional relationships, and her lack of a strong connection to Mr Trump and the Trump-faction of the party.

The NBC Guild, the NBC digital union, wrote on X: “Ronna encouraged a lie that many of our own journalists have spent countless hours debunking. Our journalism is tarnished by @NBCNews execs elevating a liar over the workers who have spent years delivering the kind of reporting that our newsrooms are typically known for.”

There was also miscommunication between Ms McDaniel and NBC – at first, she thought that her Sunday appearance on Meet the Press would be part of her unveiling as a contributor and not the hard-questioning interaction that later transpired.

A source close to the former RNC chair told Politico: “How could the top brass be negotiating this and then not let Kristen Welker know she may be doing her interview with a paid contributor? Usually, contributors weigh in on this or that issue, not, like, answer these brutal questions for 20 minutes.”

Jon Allsop wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review that “the glaring problem with her hiring is not that she was (or is) a partisan hack or anything to do with her policy positions, but her deep complicity in Trump’s election denialism”.

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote on X that the bosses at NBC will be forced to admit either “that denialism does not disqualify and say why (rough, though this is their position) or search for GOP ‘insiders’ who are not denialists (good luck!) or drop the access thing as ill-suited to news in 2024 (never going to happen.)”

Jack Shafer, Politico’s senior media writer, wrote on Monday that “The McDaniel hiring speaks to a long-running poverty of imagination at television’s news divisions. Network bosses have come to believe that the news is a river that flows out of the mouths of official sources and is then routed to viewers by former members of the club. So go ahead and shriek about Ronna McDaniel’s hiring. Just as long as you save lung power to protest all the other political veterans doing time on the air.”