NBC News Kicks Ronna McDaniel to the Curb After Internal Revolt

David McNew/Getty
David McNew/Getty

NBC News has parted ways with Ronna McDaniel following an open revolt by its journalists and TV personalities objecting to the network’s hiring of the former Republican National Committee chairwoman as an on-air contributor, NBCUniversal News chair Cesar Conde said in a memo to staff.

She lasted a full four days at the network.

“I have decided that Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor,” Conde wrote to staff in a memo obtained by The Daily Beast. “No organization, particularly a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesive and aligned. Over the last few days, it has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal.”

Conde apologized to NBC News staffers and wrote that, despite a group effort to hire the ex-Republican National Committee chairwoman, “I approved it and take full responsibility for it.”

Conde said the company still planned to “seek voices that represent different parts of the political spectrum.”

The decision to renege on McDaniel’s reported six-figure contract came after NBC executives met on Tuesday to weigh her fate, Puck’s Dylan Byers first reported. Hours later, The New York Times reported that CAA dropped McDaniel and she was interviewing attorneys to represent her with NBC.

NBC News brass faced immediate internal backlash after announcing on Friday that it had hired the former RNC boss whose tenure was marked by demonizing the press and wholeheartedly supporting former President Donald Trump’s election lies and insurrection attempt.

The uproar began as internal discontent before spilling over to the airwaves when NBC News political director Chuck Todd rebuked his bosses on-air during a Meet the Press appearance. Over the next 36 hours, nearly the entire MSNBC lineup—from Morning Joe to former Bush aide Nicolle Wallace to network icon Rachel Maddow—joined in by using their airtime to criticize the McDaniel hiring.

Rachel Maddow Implores NBC to Reverse ‘Inexplicable’ Ronna McDaniel Hire

In announcing the hiring, political news chief Carrie Budoff Brown explained that McDaniel was hired to examine “the diverse perspectives of American voters” and would appear “across all NBC News platforms,” suggesting she’d be a frequent presence at liberal-leaning cable outlet MSNBC. However, in an attempt to quell growing outrage over the weekend, MSNBC boss Rashida Jones told staffers that the cable outlet had no plans to bring McDaniel on its airwaves. The outrage, however, only grew. (Further fueling discontent was the reporting that NBC inked McDaniel to a $300,000 salary just after the newsroom had been slashed by layoffs.)

Just ahead of McDaniel’s first paid appearance on Meet the Press, anchor Kristen Welker explicitly noted that she had been left in the dark by NBC leadership on this particularly consequential hiring. “This interview was scheduled weeks before it was announced that McDaniel would become a paid NBC News contributor,” she said. “This will be a news interview, and I was not involved in her hiring.”

Todd then sat on a post-interview panel and openly chided NBC brass for putting Welker in an “impossible situation,” calling on management to apologize. “There’s a reason why there’s a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this,” he explained. “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.”

McDaniel’s willingness to peddle former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election lies, and her claim that she was just a team player by boosting his “hostage” rhetoric about Jan. 6 rioters, further led NBC News hosts to question her credibility. The day after Todd’s scathing repudiation, Morning Joe stars Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski took aim at the network.

“We weren't asked our opinion of the hiring but, if we were, we would have strongly objected to it for several reasons,” Scarborough said, while Brzezinski added: “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.”

Hours later, Wallace, a former George W. Bush flack-turned-MSNBC host, spent several segments on the McDaniel hiring, lamenting it as a potential threat to democracy itself. “We’ll talk about what it means for democracy when companies, especially those in the business of news, add self-described election deniers to their payrolls,” she sighed.

MSNBC’s entire Monday night lineup, save for Ari Melber, openly criticized NBC management on-air for hiring McDaniel.

Jen Psaki, a former Obama and Biden White House aide, pushed back on the “right-wing ecosystem” for comparing her transition into the press to McDaniel’s. Her experience working in Democratic politics, Psaki said, “only matters and only has value to viewers—all of you—if it is paired with honesty and with good faith. Those qualities are especially important right now at a time when our institutions are under attack and when our democracy is in danger. And our democracy is in danger because of the lies that people like Ronna McDaniel have pushed on this country.”

Open Revolt at NBC as ‘Morning Joe’ Joins the Ronna McDaniel Pile-On

Rachel Maddow, meanwhile, called the McDaniel hiring “inexplicable” and directly implored her NBC News bosses to reconsider. “I hope they will reverse their decision,” she said after comparing McDaniel to a mafioso being hired to work in a district attorney’s office.

And Lawrence O’Donnell closed out the evening’s slate by directly advising NBC management: “Don’t hire anyone close to the crimes.”

The network hasn’t shied away from hiring controversial conservatives in the run-up to the 2024 election. NBC hired former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short last month as a contributor to Meet the Press and CNBC, just days after he claimed Disney was “pressuring Florida to embrace an LGBT agenda in elementary schools” or that Target and Bud Light were “openly marketing transgenderism” in a Washington Examiner op-ed chiding Trump for re-embracing Bud Light. But it was McDaniel’s active participation in Trump’s bid to block the 2020 election’s certification that has rankled the network’s top talent, many of whom branded McDaniel as a danger to democracy during Monday’s daylong rebuke.

Aside from McDaniel’s election denialism and Trump sycophancy, much of the outrage over her hiring has stemmed from NBC leadership’s failure to communicate with the news division.

Budoff Brown and fellow NBC News executive Rebecca Blumenstein helped court McDaniel to the network without seeking any buy-in from top reporters and anchors—a move that only worsened the internal meltdown after Friday’s surprise announcement, multiple network sources told The Daily Beast. (The day before announcing McDaniel’s hiring, the network held a staff-wide town-hall featuring NBC News boss Cesar Conde in conversation with Psaki. There was no indication then of the incoming news.)

Besides the on-air rebukes, the network found itself under fire from the NBC News Guild, which took issue with the hiring coming weeks after a number of union employees were laid off. “[NBC Universal Chairman Cesar Conde] never offered an explanation for the layoffs, but actions speak clearly—NBC prioritized an election denier over its own reporters,” the guild noted.

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