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NBC News cuts ties with former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel

The decision comes less than a week after NBC News announced her hiring, prompting an extraordinary public protest from the former host of its flagship Sunday morning political show, as well as from many of the most popular MSNBC hosts.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel Speaks At The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Then-RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in Simi Valley, Calif., on April 20.David McNew / Getty Images file

NBC News has reversed its decision to hire former Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel as a political analyst after network executives faced a chorus of fierce on-air criticism.

“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,” NBCUniversal Group Chairman Cesar Conde said in an email to staff members Tuesday.

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

The decision to cut ties with McDaniel comes less than a week after NBC News announced her hiring, prompting an extraordinary public protest from the former host of its flagship Sunday morning political show, as well as from many of the most popular hosts of the network’s cable channel. 

Rachel Maddow opened her show on MSNBC on Monday night by urging NBC News to change its mind about hiring McDaniel.

“I find the decision to put her on the payroll inexplicable, and I hope they will reconsider that decision,” Maddow said.

MSNBC and NBC News are both part of the NBCUniversal News Group. 

McDaniel did not immediately respond to a voicemail and emails requesting comment.

McDaniel’s hiring came two weeks after she left her post as head of the RNC, where she had voiced support for baseless claims by former President Donald Trump about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Conde said in his memo that the decision to bring McDaniel on board was made “because of our deep commitment to presenting our audiences with a widely diverse set of viewpoints and experiences, particularly during these consequential times. 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 on-air journalists at NBC News and MSNBC argued that McDaniel lacked credibility after The Detroit News reported she joined Trump on a phone call as he reportedly pressured Republican canvassers in her home state of Michigan not to certify the 2020 presidential election results.

In an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” which host Kristen Welker said had been scheduled before it was announced that McDaniel was going to become a paid contributor, McDaniel addressed the phone call with the canvassers, saying, “​​I was not telling them to do anything.” 

“The pressure was being put on them from the hours and hours of threats and abuse they were receiving that coerced them to change their vote,” McDaniel said Sunday, adding that she told them, “I support you voting your conscience.”

Following her appearance, NBC News chief political analyst Chuck Todd said on the broadcast that “she has credibility issues that she still has to deal with.” 

The criticism over her hiring continued Monday from early in the morning to late at night on MSNBC, with “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski saying that while NBC News should include conservative Republican voices to balance election coverage, it shouldn’t be someone “who used her position of power to be an anti-democracy election denier.”

Television networks frequently add politicians and political operatives to their rosters to serve as analysts and commentators: MSNBC host Jen Psaki is a former press secretary to President Joe Biden, and Michael Steele, who was chairman of the RNC from 2009 to 2011, is an MSNBC political analyst and co-host.

But the hiring of McDaniel immediately prompted internal concern.

Nicolle Wallace, a former White House communications director for President George W. Bush who is now a host on MSNBC, said on her show Monday that having McDaniel on the network would embolden “election deniers.” 

“NBC News, either wittingly or unwittingly, is teaching election deniers that what they can do stretches well beyond appearing on our air and interviews to peddle lies about the sanctity and integrity of our elections,” she said.