Rona McDaniel goes on NBC News after Furor
Rona McDaniel goes on NBC News after Furor

Rona McDaniel’s era at NBC News ended abruptly and chaotically.

Faced with an extraordinary on-air revolt by its anchor stars, NBC’s top news executive said Tuesday that he had decided to cut ties with Ms. McDaniel, a former Republican National Committee chairwoman who was hired last week as an on-air anchor. political commentator.

Her tenure at NBC lasted four days.

Ms. McDaniel’s appointment, announced with fanfare on Friday, was immediately criticized by network reporters and viewers on social media. Fans of MSNBC, the left-leaning cable arm of NBC, were particularly outraged, citing Ms. McDaniel’s leadership of the Republican Party under former President Donald J. Trump and her response to his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

“After listening to the legitimate concerns of many of you, I have decided that Rona McDaniel will not be a contributor to NBC News,” Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, wrote in a staff memo Tuesday.

“No organization, especially a newsroom, can succeed if it is not cohesive and coherent,” Mr. Conde continued. “Over the past few days, it has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal.”

Ms. McDaniel did not respond to requests for comment. She learned of her firing through media reports Tuesday night, before NBC told her directly, a person close to her said.

The firestorm surrounding Ms. McDaniel is a major test for Mr. Conde, who has led NBC’s news division since 2020.

He had approved her hire to ensure election-year coverage included a wider range of political perspectives. Networks regularly hire Washington veterans as commentators; Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, recently joined ABC News.

But a host of star anchors saw Ms. McDaniel’s involvement in Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election as disqualifying, and they lined up one by one to condemn NBC’s decision on her own airwaves.

On Monday night, Rachel Maddow devoted 29 minutes of her show — MSNBC’s highest-rated program — to examining Ms. McDaniel’s hiring, calling it “inexplicable” and linking her to historical figures who tried to take over the government in an authoritarian fashion . She told her bosses: “Take a moment, admit that maybe it wasn’t the right call.”

Her monologue followed similar calls from MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Nicole Wallace, among others. Ms. Wallace, a former Republican who once earned the ire of Democrats as George W. Bush’s chief defender, said Monday that NBC had given the green light to “election deniers” to spread lies “as paid collaborators of our sacred ether. “

Ms. McDaniel, who has at times clashed with Mr. Trump, left the Republican National Committee this month under pressure from the former president and his allies. She quickly signed with Creative Artists Agency, the Hollywood powerhouse, and met with executives at several networks. Her deal with NBC was worth about $300,000 a year, according to a person familiar with the details.

In his memo on Tuesday, Mr. Conde described Ms. McDaniel’s hiring as a “collective recommendation” by members of his leadership team. Those replacements included Carrie Budoff Brown, who leads NBC News’ political coverage; Rebecca Blumenstein, President, NBC News; and Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC. (Ms. Blumenstein is a former editor at The New York Times.)

But Mr Conde admitted he ultimately approved her appointment and took full responsibility for the decision. “I want to personally apologize to our team members who felt we let them down,” he wrote.

The episode highlighted the deeply biased sphere in which news organizations try to operate — and the challenge of fairly representing conservative and pro-Trump viewpoints in their coverage if major GOP figures like Ms. McDaniel are deemed objectionable by viewers or colleagues .

Mr. Conde wrote that NBC remains “committed to the principle that we should have diverse perspectives on our programming, and to that end we will redouble our efforts to seek out voices that represent different parts of the political spectrum.”

Shortly after Mr. Conde’s decision to reverse course on Tuesday, MSNBC’s anti-Trump hosts Joy Reid and Ms. Maddow applauded the move on air.

Ms. McDaniel has tried to walk a fine line regarding Mr. Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. She participated in a conversation with Mr. Trump in which he pressured Michigan officials not to certify the election results. But she also separated the Republican National Committee from many of Mr. Trump’s bold lawsuits to overturn the results and faced criticism from the Trump camp for not taking more aggressive steps to question the national election process.

NBC’s backlash created other problems for Ms. McDaniel. She is no longer represented by CAA, which negotiated her deal with NBC, a person familiar with the change said.

Mr. Trump, for his part, criticized NBC on Tuesday after Ms. McDaniel’s departure. “The top people at NBC ARE WEAK,” the former president wrote in a post on his social media site. He added that Ms. McDaniel, whose departure from the national committee he encouraged, was now in some limbo.

“This leaves her in a very strange place,” Mr Trump wrote. “It’s called NEVER NEVERLAND and it’s not a place you want to be.”

Michael Gold contributed reporting.

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