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Chuck Todd Chides NBC News Over Handling Of Ronna McDaniel Hire; Network Gets Backlash Over Decision To Retain Former RNC Chair As Analyst

NBC News is facing an internal and external backlash over its hiring of former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel as a paid contributor, with critics blasting the decision given her past support of Donald Trump’s unfounded election claims.

On Friday, the network announced that McDaniel would be joining the network to offer election year analysis across NBC News platforms, including NBC News Now and MSNBC.

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McDaniel appeared on NBC News’ Meet the Press this morning for a sometimes contentious sit down interview with moderator Kristen Welker. Welker had told viewers that the interview was scheduled weeks before it was announced that McDaniel was joining the network. “This will be a news interview, and I was not involved in her hiring,” Welker said.

During the interview, McDaniel indicated that she disagreed with Trump’s pledge to pardon rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. She also said that she believes that Joe Biden was elected president “fair and square.” But Welker pressed McDaniel on her past refusal to say that Biden was legitimately elected, running a clip from an interview she gave to Chris Wallace on CNN in July.

“I don’t think he won it fair,” McDaniel said in that interview.

Asked why she didn’t speak out earlier on Trump’s pledge to pardon the rioters, McDaniel said that when “you are RNC chair, you kind of take one for the whole team.”

Welker asked McDaniel, “Ronna, to the people who feel like you enabled Donald Trump and his lies about the election, do you owe people an apology? Do you owe this country an apology?”

McDaniel responded, “I think the fact that we looked at things is what Democrats have done, Republicans have done. We’re allowed to look after elections and say, ‘I want to make sure this was done in a transparent and fair way.’ And I certainly do not agree with violence or any attacks on our Capitol. And I’m going to be very clear. That is something I condemn wholeheartedly.”

Later on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd, the former moderator of the show and NBC News’ chief political analyst, criticized the network as he took part in a panel. He told Welker that “I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation.”

Todd said, “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. She wants us to believe that she was speaking for the RNC when the RNC was paying for her. So she has she has credibility issues that she still has to deal with. Is she speaking for herself or is she speaking on behalf of who’s paying her?”

Todd praised Welker for doing “a good job of exposing I think many of the contradictions” in McDaniel’s comments.

Todd added, “Look, there’s a reason why there’s a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this because many of our professional dealings with the RNC over the last six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination. That’s where you begin here. And so, when NBC made the decision to give her NBC News’ credibility, you gotta ask yourself, what does she bring NBC News? And when we make deals like this, and I’ve been at this company a long time, you’re doing it for access, access to audience, sometimes it’s access to an individual. And we can have a journalistic ethics debate about it. I’m willing to have that debate.”

Todd went on to say that “if you told me we were hiring or as a technical adviser to the Republican Convention, I think that would be certainly defensible. If you told me we’re talking to her but let’s let’s see how she does in some interviews and maybe vet her with actual journalists inside the network to see if it’s a two way, what she can bring the network. Unfortunately, this interview is always going to be looked through the prism of, who is she speaking for?”

Todd said later, “I don’t think it’s going to bring the network what they think it wants to bring to the network. I understand the motivation, but this execution, I think, was poor.”

Other panelists also questioned the decision to hire McDaniel. Stephen Hayes, the conservative commentator and also an NBC News analyst, said that while some critics “don’t want to be confronted with Republican voices and conservative arguments,” he said that McDaniel “has huge credibility problems.” He said that McDaniel “not only presided, but directed and drove the ‘qanonization’ of the Republican Party during her tenure.”

Hayes told Welker, “She did a tremendous disservice to the country by making the argument that led to the erosion of faith. We have half of the republicans right now believe the election wasn’t fair, and even today confronted with her past votes, she couldn’t give you a straight answer until your forth or fifth time pressing” her on that.

In making the announcement to hire McDaniel, NBC News said that her role “represents an ongoing commitment to featuring a variety of voices who can offer firsthand insight on today’s politics.” The networks has a roster of analysts on the right and left.

After her hiring was announced, MSNBC President Rashida Jones addressed staffers over the decision and told them that it would be up to individual shows to decide whether to book her, according to a source familiar with the situation. The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that a number of anchors and producers expressed concerns internally over McDaniel.

In her interview with McDaniel, Welker also addressed her credibility, asking the former party leader, “Speak to the people who hold you responsible for enabling Donald Trump and his mistruths, his lies about the election. Why should they trust you when they say they don’t?”

McDaniel said, “I think you should trust me. I mean, I can’t speak to people who don’t trust different voices. I think you should be able to hear from different voices. And I haven’t been able to talk to you about the concerns I had going into that election, and I wish there was more of a dialogue from that.”

She added, “And I really feel like if our country is going to survive we need to be able to have difficult conversations like this in a respectful way. We need more of that in our country. But we also can’t go into our echo chambers and say, ‘I’m only going to listen to what Democrats have to say,’ and, ‘I’m only going to listen to what Republicans have to say.’ Listen to it and make your own opinion.”

Former Rep. Liz Cheney was among those who chimed in on the McDaniel interview, taking issue with McDaniel’s assertion that she was acting in the interests of the party.

Cheney wrote on X/Twitter, “”Ronna facilitated Trump’s corrupt fake elector plot & his effort to pressure MI officials not to certify the legitimate election outcome.She spread his lies & called 1/6 ‘legitimate political discourse.’ That’s not ‘taking one for the team.’ It’s enabling criminality & depravity.”

McDaniel presided over the RNC’s decision in 2022 to censure Cheney and then-Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for becoming members in the January 6th committee. The censure resolution called the two Republican lawmakers out for “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

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