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NBC News Ousts Contributor Ronna McDaniel After Anchors Revolt

The NBC News career of Ronna McDaniel, the former head of the Republican National Committee, has been ended before it had ever truly begun.

NBC News said Tuesday that it would cut ties with McDaniel after a phalanx of popular anchors rebelled against a decision to make her a political contributor who would offer commentary through the 2024 presidential election. NBC News executives had hoped to gain new insight to the thinking of the modern Republican party, but NBC News journalists could not stomach the prospect of putting McDaniel on air after she had helped former President Donald Trump in his efforts to undermine the integrity of the 2020 election, which was won by current officeholder Joe Biden.

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“There is no doubt that the last several days have been difficult for the News Group. After listening to the legitimate concerns of many of you, I have decided that Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor,” said Cesar Conde, chairman of NBC News Group, in a memo to staffers Tuesday. “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.”
 
Senior executives at NBC News were meeting Tuesday to discuss how to handle the thorny question of McDaniel’s presence on the outlet’s roster of contributors after several of the most prominent anchors at the outlet its sibling, MSNBC, including Chuck Todd, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow, rebuked the decision to hire her on air. Meanwhile, CAA, the talent agency that helped broker the deal, cut ties with McDaniel Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the matter, telling the former political operative she needed to consult with an attorney to represent her in exit discussions.

Drama around McDaniel has swirled for days across the NBC News portfolio, with anchors ranging from pushing back on the hire in remarks delivered on air on shows such as “Meet The Press,” “Morning Joe” and “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Such an overt rebuke is unusual, to say the least. The fact that it was allowed to be put on public display is rarer still.

McDaniel’s hire came out of a desire to fulfill “our deep commitment to presenting our audiences with a widely diverse set of viewpoints and experiences, particularly during these consequential times,” Conde said. “We continue to be committed to the principle that we must have diverse viewpoints on our programs, and to that end, we will redouble our efforts to seek voices that represent different parts of the political spectrum”

The executive said the decision was backed by “a collective recommendation by some members of our leadership team,” but noted that “I approved it and take full responsibility for it.”

NBC News has tapped other conservatives and political operatives as analysts, including columnist Charlie Sykes and, more recently, Marc Short, the former chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence. The critical difference between these contributors and McDaniel is that the former were not seen as supporting an overthrow of systems of U.S. government. Many NBC News staffers felt they could not interview McDaniel without questioning her credibility, a process that would overwhelm whatever insight she might be able to deliver.

Other TV-news outlets have tested similar hires. CBS News generated internal backlash last year when it named Mick Mulvaney, a former Trump chief of staff, as a political analyst. The relationship did not last long; Mulvaney now works as a contributor for Nexstar Media’s NewsNation cable outlet.

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