NBC News in revolt over Ronna McDaniel hiring. Will the network reverse course?

The hosts at NBC News’ cable outlet MSNBC continued to pound away at their parent organization’s decision to hire former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel as an on-air analyst.

The blowback unfolded throughout the day on the progressive cable news network, presenting a highly unusual situation in which well-known TV personalities went directly to viewers to challenge a decision made by their top managers.

The open rebellion could make it difficult for Comcast-owned NBC News to move forward with any plans to use McDaniel, who resigned from the RNC last month. A representative for NBC News said Monday there was no change in her status. But people familiar with the situation who are not authorized to comment publicly said McDaniel will probably be out before she even begins.

Chuck Todd, the ex-“Meet the Press” moderator, opened the door to the criticism when he appeared on his former program Sunday and blasted the network’s decision to make McDaniel a paid contributor, citing her record of supporting former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

MSNBC hosts weighed in on Monday, starting with “Morning Joe” co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski saying McDaniel will not be welcome on their daily program, a favorite of politicians and opinion leaders in Washington, D.C., and New York.

A woman sits at a desk.

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.


“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.

Brzezinski said she hoped NBC News management will reconsider its decision to bring McDaniel aboard.

“Deadline: Washington” anchor Nicolle Wallace praised Todd for his Sunday remarks. “He did something really brave,” Wallace told her viewers. “I talked to him yesterday. I said I’m knitting you a cape.”

Wallace, a former George W. Bush White House communications director who has long been anti-Trump, and Joy Reid both devoted lengthy segments critical of the McDaniel hiring. Reid described McDaniel as “a major peddler of the big lie,” referring to the Trump’s election falsehoods. Reid cited how McDaniel was on Trump’s phone calls to GOP officials in Michigan, urging them not to certify the state’s 2020 election results.

MSNBC host Jen Psaki cited a Liz Cheney tweet that noted how McDaniel once described the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.”

“This is about truth versus lies,” Psaki, formerly the Biden White House press secretary, said.

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s biggest star, also asked NBC News management to reverse the decision.

“The fact that McDaniel is on the payroll at NBC News — to me that is inexplicable,” Maddow said on her program. “You wouldn’t hire a wise guy, you wouldn’t hire a made man, like a mobster to work in a D.A.’s office.”

Former NBC News executives took to social media to chastise the move as well. Cheryl Gould, a producer and executive at the division for 37 years, wrote an open letter on her Facebook page to Carrie Budoff Brown, the senior vice president of politics for NBC News who was involved in McDaniel’s hiring.

“We all make mistakes,” Gould wrote. “This happens to be a colossal one that unfortunately makes the network, your bosses and yourself look misguided at best, craven at worst.”

NBC has a long history of hiring former government and political officials as contributors to its news operation. Such deals are done to get exclusive access to insider knowledge — and to keep prominent talking heads from appearing on the competition.

In 1977, the network gave Gerald Ford a $1-million deal — brokered by William Morris Agency — to be a commentator and contributor to a series of specials about his presidency.

In the same year the network signed a similar deal to former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. The move prompted a top news executive at the network, Richard Wald, to leave the company in protest, as he believed the deal siphoned resources from journalism projects. Wald also believed Kissinger owed it to the country to appear on NBC for free.

Political figures have segued into TV news commentary and lucrative TV anchor roles ever since.

NBC already has another former RNC chair on its payroll in Michael Steele, a co-host on the MSNBC program “The Weekend.” Psaki headed to MSNBC immediately after her departure from the Biden White House. Wallace worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign after her time in the George W. Bush administration.

All TV news organizations stock up on paid contributors during election season.

But the internal hostility toward McDaniel is linked to her support of Trump’s denial of the 2020 voting results, disqualifying her as a credible source to many inside the news organization. Before her appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press,” she had never acknowledged that President Biden won the election fairly.

McDaniel attributed her previous defense of Trump’s claims to her role in the RNC and said she can be “a little bit more of myself” now that she is no longer a party official. But she continues to say there were problems with the 2020 vote due to the dependence on mail-in ballots.

In a memo sent Friday to NBC News staff that was provided to the Times, Brown said McDaniel would provide a valuable perspective to the division’s coverage of the 2024 election with Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

“It couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team,” Brown said. “As we gear up for the longest general election season in recent memory, she will support our leading coverage by providing an insider’s perspective on national politics and on the future of the Republican Party — which she led through some of the most turbulent and challenging moments in political history.”