NBC News has fired Rona McDaniel after the network’s anchors launched an unprecedented on-air riot
NBC News has fired Rona McDaniel after the network’s anchors launched an unprecedented on-air riot

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NBC News on Tuesday suspended former Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel, just days after her hiring as a paid political analyst sparked a backlash from the network’s top anchors over McDaniel’s role in subverting the 2020 election and attacking the press.

“There’s no doubt that the past few days have been difficult for News Group,” NBCUniversal News Group President Cesar Conde said in a memo to staff. “After listening to the legitimate concerns of many of you, I have decided that Rona McDaniel will not be a contributor to NBC News.”

“I want to personally apologize to our team members who felt we let them down,” Conde continued. “While this was a collective recommendation from some members of our leadership team, I endorsed it and take full responsibility for it.”

Before the network’s decision, McDaniel spent the day Tuesday interviewing lawyers in preparation for a potential legal battle with NBC, a person familiar with the matter told CNN. Creative Artists Agency, the talent agency that brokered McDaniel’s NBC deal, also parted ways with her, the person said.

The reversal comes after reporters and anchors at both NBC and its cable news sibling MSNBC publicly condemned the decision to hire McDaniel as a paid analyst in a stunning and unprecedented on-air rebuke of network leaders that embarrassed the Peacock Network.

McDaniel, who recently resigned from the RNC under pressure from former President Donald Trump, has been implicated in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

As head of the RNC, she participated in a 2020 phone call to pressure Michigan county officials not to certify votes from the Detroit area, where Joe Biden had a lead. McDaniel told employees regarding the certificate, “Don’t sign it. … We will get you lawyers.”

In the years since, McDaniel has continued to argue that the election had “problems” and that Biden did not legitimately win the election, fanning the flames of electoral denial.

NBC’s announcement Friday that it had hired McDaniel was quickly met with alarm by the network’s journalists. The furore spilled out publicly Sunday when McDaniel appeared on “Meet the Press” with moderator Kristen Welker in her first interview since being hired by the network. Welker revealed that the interview was scheduled to take place before NBC announced that McDaniel would become a paid contributor to the network, saying she was not involved in her hiring.

After the interview, Chuck Todd, NBC News’ chief political analyst, criticized NBC executives on air for their decision to hire McDaniel, telling Welker, “I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation. ”

“There’s a reason a lot of journalists at NBC News are uncomfortable with this,” Todd said, explaining that under McDaniel, the RNC engaged in “gaslighting” and “character assassination” when dealing with the news media.

The next day, MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough joined Todd in protesting the decision on their Morning Joe show.

“To be clear, we believe that NBC News should seek out conservative Republicans to provide balance in their coverage of the election, but these should be conservative Republicans, not someone who has used his position of power to denies elections against democracy,” Brzezinski said. “We hope NBC will reconsider its decision. It goes without saying that she will not be a guest on ‘Morning Joe’ as a paid contributor.”

Nicole Wallace, host of MSNBC’s “Deadline: The White House,” later joined the rebuke, saying on her program that the network’s decision to hire McDaniel was nothing short of a potential threat to democracy.

“NBC News, knowingly or unknowingly, is teaching election deniers that what they can do extends far beyond appearing on our air and doing interviews to spread lies about the sanctity and integrity of our elections,” said Wallace to the audience.

Rachel Maddow — the network’s biggest star — later devoted the first half hour of her prime-time program to the controversy, saying the decision to hire McDaniel was “inexplicable.”

Maddow took issue with McDaniel’s long record of demonizing the news media, including launching ugly attacks on NBC News journalists and MSNBC anchors.

“We don’t take it personally when we are attacked when they say they want to put us on trial and execute us for treason,” she said.

“And so I want to join all my colleagues at MSNBC and NBC News who have voiced loud and principled objections to our company for putting on the payroll someone who has not just attacked us as journalists, but someone who has part of an ongoing project to dismantle our system of government,” she told McDaniel. “Someone who is still trying to convince Americans that this election doesn’t really work. That the last election was not a real result. That America’s elections are rigged.”

The on-air upheaval ensnared top NBC leaders, including NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde, NBC News president Rebecca Blumenstein and senior vice president of policy Carrie Budoff Brown, who were responsible for McDaniel’s hiring. MSNBC chief Rashida Jones did not object to her hiring at the time.

“Mistakes are going to be made,” Maddow said. “But our resilience as a democracy will be recognizing when decisions are bad and reversing those bad decisions. Listening to valid criticism, responding to it, and correcting course. No digging. Not blaming others. Take a moment. Admit that maybe it wasn’t the right call.

During his time as RNC chairman, McDaniel has repeatedly attacked the press, which has become increasingly popular in Republican circles over the past few years as Trump has demonized journalists and news institutions.

McDaniel echoed many similar attacks, calling the press “fake news” and calling the media “corrupt.” Sometimes she even targets NBC News and MSNBC with dishonest attacks.

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