Journalism

NBC News Drops Ronna McDaniel Days After Hiring Her

An NBC News building in New York City©Jaroslav Frank/123RF

NBC News confirmed this week that it had reversed its decision on hiring Ronna McDaniel as a paid contributor after a major backlash.

After days of blistering criticism, NBC News confirmed it dropped former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. The network announced days earlier it hired McDaniel as a paid contributor for its news division.

Employees of the news division went bananas. Actually, as The Washington Post put it, NBC faced “an on-air insurrection” over the decision.

NBC News planned to bring her on board as a paid political analyst.

Poynter summed it up this way:

McDaniel is the same person who repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election. The same person who attempted to help former President Donald Trump subvert that election. The same person who constantly criticized the news media, most notably the very company that now has hired her.

Semafor reported that McDaniel “quietly deleted tweets criticizing NBC” and acknowledged on Meet the Press that the 2020 election was legitimate.

It’s not the first time political operatives got hired by a network

Poynter also pointed out that ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, for example, worked in the Clinton administration. Reince Priebus, who served as the first chief of staff of former President Donald Trump, is an ABC News contributor. Jen Psaki, who works for MSNBC, previously served as President joe Biden’s press secretary. CBS News hired former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in 2022 as an on-air contributor.

A CNN commentary stated the main objections by NBC News staffers weren’t based on her being a Republican:

It’s not even that she is a Donald Trump-supporting Republican. It’s that she was an active participant in the plot to overthrow the last presidential election. That is not to even mention McDaniel’s years of demonizing the press, smearing the journalists who work at NBC News and MSNBC as she sought to destroy the credibility of the organization that she ran to after being chased out of the RNC.

NBC News Chief Political Analyst Chuck Todd appeared on the program he used to moderate, Meet the Press, on Sunday. He blasted the decision to hire McDaniel, whom he accused of “gaslighting” and “character assassination” while she led the RNC.

McDaniel seems to be something of a special case. During Sunday’s Meet the Press, she acknowledged that she does not support pardons for those convicted in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Former President Donald Trump will almost certainly pardon them if he is reelected. Moderator Kristen Welker asked McDaniel why she didn’t speak out on that earlier.

“When you’re the RNC chair, you kind of take one for the whole team, right? Now, I kind of get to be more myself, right?” she said.

Ending every sentence with right is just as irritating as beginning every sentence with So. But I digress.

‘The elephant in the room’

McDaniel was booked on Meet the Press before it was announced that she had been hired by the network. Todd, who also appeared on Sunday’s show, said he wanted to begin by addressing “the elephant in the room,” which may or may not have been an intentional play on words. He told Welker he thinks their bosses owe Welker an apology for putting her 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,” Todd said.

He also said that for NBC brass to hand her “NBC News’ credibility,” you have to ask what she brings to NBC News.

The Atlantic tackled that point, claiming Ronna McDaniel has “no apparent value to viewers or the network.” It also writes that if the networked hoped to bring in a true “insider” and to get in Trump’s good graces, they’re likely in for a disappointment:

McDaniel is not known for her strategic acumen or ideological fervor. She was chosen for the job for loyalty for Trump, and then discarded later when that loyalty proved insufficient.

McDaniel’s credibility is also in question. As Welker pointed out, she spent years indulging Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that January 6 insurrectionists were patriots. 

Interviewing them isn’t a problem; hiring them is

I think news organizations should always be looking for ways to make sure every side is covered. But when you have a presidential candidate who calls the media “the enemy of the people,” it’s hard for the media to book his supporters. It becomes a credibility and ethical issue when you have politicos who are working to paint false realities — whether they believe those falsehoods to be true or are simply “taking one for the team.”

I don’t have an issue with bringing on people from both sides of the political spectrum for discussions.

I have a big problem, however, with a news organization hiring them, putting them on their payroll and expecting them to suddenly have the clout to cover topics in a journalistically ethical way.

I don’t think that’s an impossible feat. But I do think it’s a highly unlikely one.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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