NBC News debacle: Hiring of Ronna McDaniel infuriates MSNBC insiders, draws on-air rebuke

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When Ronna McDaniel, former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, landed a paid contributor position at NBC News and its affiliated platforms on Friday, the uproar was predictable and immediate. And it barely went out over the weekend. On the contrary, the situation has gotten worse.

Chuck Todd demanded an apology from network bigwigs while appearing on NBC's Sunday news show, “Meet the Press.” Current MSNBC host Symone Sanders-Townsend — herself a Democratic political activist — taunted McDaniel on social media for her first interview in which she was pressed by her new colleague, the “MTP” host , Kristen Welker. Welker was forced to explain at the start of the show that she had nothing to do with McDaniel's hiring and openly questioning the analyst's integrity. MSNBC President Rashida Jones assured furious staff that McDaniel would not appear on the airwaves of the left-leaning NBC cable affiliate.

So far, it's been a debacle for NBC News to bring in McDaniel, a Donald Trump acolyte tainted in liberal eyes by her association with his stolen election rhetoric and efforts to overturn President Biden's 2020 victory.

Her hiring was defended Friday in a memo from NBC News political chief Carrie Budoff Brown, which said: “This couldn't be a more important time to have a voice like Ronna's on the team.” But social media erupted, with former MSNBC figures like Keith Olbermann and Steve Schmidt declaring it an atrocity, and current MSNBC columnists posting their own apprehensions. Critics from left-wing media also made no secret of their disdain, and the network felt the heat.


Ronna McDaniel

Ronna McDaniel joins NBC News' Kristen Welker for an interview on March 24, 2024. (Screenshot/NBC)

An MSNBC insider told Fox News Digital on Sunday that McDaniel is a liar and a gaslighter who would never be welcome on their show. The fact that Brown made McDaniel's arrest seem like a major catch infuriated staffers, they said, and they added that Jones and other network executives had not anticipated such a reaction. fierce upon arrival.

“[McDaniel] “I participated in a fake election scheme designed to unseat an elected president,” another MSNBC insider told Fox News Digital. “It’s mind-boggling that anyone thinks this hire was appropriate.”

“Tim Russert would be outraged,” they added, referring to the longtime “Meet the Press” host, who died in 2008.

They confirmed earlier reports that Jones told MSNBC staff that McDaniel would not have to appear on their shows.

McDaniel made his first appearance on NBC since being hired on Sunday's “Meet the Press.” This was originally billed as her first interview since resigning from the RNC earlier this month, but Welker was put in the odd position of explaining to viewers beforehand that it would be a “dirty” conversation. news,” and she had nothing to do with McDaniel’s hiring. .

They then had a contentious interview, as Welker asked whether former President Trump pushed her to leave her RNC post, whether she would actually run a neutral primary given that she had called on Nikki Haley to step down, Trump's rhetoric about January. 6 rioters, how she helped him in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, and whether McDaniel was even trustworthy.


Ronna McDaniel and Chuck Todd

Ronna McDaniel and Chuck Todd. (Getty Images)

At a panel after the interview, Todd addressed network bigwigs and said they should apologize to Welker. According to Politico, Welker and the show's producers knew in advance that Todd, whom Welker had replaced as the show's host, would be leaving and did nothing to dissuade him.

“I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation, because I don’t know what to believe,” he fumed.

“Booking this interview and all of a sudden the rug has been pulled out from under you, you find out she's being paid to appear? It's unfortunate for this show, but I'm glad you did your best,” Todd said later. added.

The program then devoted an entire panel segment to discussing the interview. The Boston Globe's Kimberly Atkins Stohr said McDaniel's credibility “was completely destroyed.” Todd said she was not a worthy addition to the NBC News roster.

“When we do deals like this, and I've been in this business for a long time, you do it for access. Access to the public, sometimes it's access to an individual,” he said. said, later adding: “He's a Washington agent who I don't think will bring to the network what he thinks he wants to bring to the network. I understand the motivation, but this execution, I think, has been poor .

On MSNBC's “Morning Joe” on Monday, the show's hosts also criticized the hiring and said she would not be a guest on the program.

“To be clear, we think NBC News should seek out conservative Republican voices to provide balance in its election coverage,” said co-host Mika Brzezinski. “But it should be about conservative Republicans, not someone who is using their position of power to be an anti-democratic election denier.”

McDaniel isn't the first political figure to get a high-profile TV job at NBC or other networks – Biden's first press secretary, Jen Psaki, and former Kamala Harris staffer, Sanders – Townsend, both host shows on MSNBC. But like when Trump's former chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, landed at CBS, there was an immediate media outcry over someone associated with Trump.

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Kristen Welker and Ronna McDaniel

NBC News host Kristen Welker and former RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel face off in her first interview since NBC hired her as an analyst. (Screenshot/NBC)

Puck News reported that McDaniel was given a $300,000 annual contract. A former high-level NBC staffer told Fox News Digital that the reported salary may not be a huge sum for a top contributor, but it was still more than what MSNBC producers made or senior producers, and that could cause resentment from a Trump supporter. could get that kind of number.

McDaniel and NBC News spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

During his interview with Welker, McDaniel defended his record at the RNC, which included crushing election defeats in three consecutive cycles. She also appeared to walk back previous remarks that Biden's 2020 election was unfair, although she said it was OK to ask questions.

“He won fairly and fairly. It's certified. It's done…I think it's fair to say that there were problems in 2020. And saying that doesn't mean that he is not the legitimate president,” she said.

A cheerful Sanders-Townsend watched on social media as McDaniel was questioned.

“Baby, Kristen Welker has Ronna Romney McDaniel in the hot seat,” she wrote on X.


Overall, it wasn't exactly a warm welcome for the newest addition to NBC News.

Brian Flood and Joseph A. Wulfsohn of Fox News contributed to this report.


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