Ronna’s Out. But the Folks Who Hired Her Remain at NBC News.

Ronna’s Out. But the Folks Who Hired Her Remain at NBC News.

Ronna’s Out. But the Folks Who Hired Her Remain at NBC News.

How did they think this hire was smart? The network’s accounting for this mess is unfinished.


Sometimes I love being wrong.

Let me admit that I was wrong about NBC News: I thought its leadership could and would resist a backlash to the network’s hiring of former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel from Chuck Todd and the Morning Joe team of Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. I wrote that on Monday morning.

I didn’t count on Rachel Maddow delivering the most withering denunciation of her bosses imaginable, based on not only her coverage of the Trump insurrection, which was abetted by McDaniel, but the pre–World War II world of domestic fascists she captured in her book Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism. When I watched Maddow’s tour de force on Monday night, I knew it was over for poor Ronna. And I said so. Maddow was joined by hosts Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Stephanie Ruhle. (Here’s a good tick-tock of the public internal revolt.)

The official news came Tuesday afternoon. But will there ever be a reckoning for the clueless people who hired her?

Do NBC News executives live in an elevator together? A pneumatic tube (look it up)? A group home? A reality-TV compound? What an insular, privileged world they must inhabit, to imagine there wouldn’t be mass pushback against the hiring of McDaniel, from viewers but also from valued anchors and contributors. (I’ve criticized Chuck Todd before, but he deserves kudos for going first.)

“I have decided that Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor,” NBC News head Cesar Conde wrote in a memo to staff. “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.”

“I have decided.” How lordly.

NBC political news director Carrie Budoff Brown, who came from Politico, had crowed at McDaniel’s hiring, which she orchestrated, saying, “It couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team.” She insisted that McDaniel would provide “an insider’s perspective on national politics and the future of the Republican Party.”

“A voice like Ronna’s.” Really?

Here’s the thing: McDaniel couldn’t deliver “an insider’s perspective on national politics and the future of the Republican Party.” Or anything else.

Yes, McDaniel supported Trump’s election lies and his insurrection. It should have disqualified her. But also, in television terms: She was not charismatic, convincing, or even articulate. If you watched her on Sunday with beleaguered Meet the Press host Kristen Welker, who said she booked the interview with McDaniel before she knew the RNC flack was hired as a contributor, you know this.

McDaniel sputtered, and lied, repeatedly. She claimed that she was merely worried about the safety of Wayne County, Mich., election officials—yes, Detroit is the county seat—when she and Trump called (the call was recorded) to urge them not to certify their local election results. That was bullshit. Trump and McDaniel were plainly trying to get their local allies to refuse to certify the vote in a major Democratic stronghold. Welker tried to counter as many lies as she could, but it was like playing television whack-a-mole.

Maybe most important, when you’re evaluating NBC’s decision to hire her, McDaniel delivered absolutely nothing to the network politically. Trump cut her loose, so she had no juice in Trumpworld. She alienated Nikki Haley supporters by trying to drive Trump’s only remaining challenger out of the race just when she was rising. Never Trump Republicans hate McDaniel, with good reason: She was a Trump toady. She doesn’t even have the constituency of her large extended family, since she dropped her birth name Romney (as everyone knows, she is Mitt Romney’s niece) when Trump demanded that. What special perspective could she have given NBC?

Full disclosure: I had an MSNBC contract for six years, and I lost it, sadly for me, at the end of 2017, before any of the current management worked there. I’m still on its shows periodically, and I still like and admire many hosts. Judge that as you’d like. I’m not in line for another contract, but I know people who are on so often they deserve one, have tried to get one, but don’t have one. Plus, NBC News laid off at least 20 journalists in the last year, according to the NBC News Guild. I can think of many people more worthy of Ronna’s reported $300,000 annual contract than Ronna.

Meanwhile, the folks on Fox are having a conniption because NBC brass caved to MSNBC’s “liberal hosts” and depicting McDaniel as a martyr. So that’s fun. For her part, McDaniel is said to be consulting lawyers to find a way not only to get her entire contract paid out—$300,000 for two years—but to explore the possibility of a defamation suit against her employer.

Politico reports that she is complaining that she never had a chance to meet her colleagues at MSNBC or NBC, and that the network cut her loose without defending her against (accurate) claims that she was Trump’s accomplice in trying to overturn the free and fair 2020 election. She also says Budoff Brown reached out after Todd’s first broadside to reassure her that the network had her back. Then there was silence until Conde’s memo to staff cutting her loose.

I’m thrilled that NBC News bowed to public pressure, and to outrage from valued staff, and cut McDaniel loose. But some folks who made this decision ought to go out with her. The decision was not only corrupt but deeply stupid.

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