NBC News Dismisses Ronna McDaniel as Contributor Amid Network Revolt

Criticism grew to a fever pitch Monday as a parade of MSNBC anchors blasted the decision on air

Ronna McDaniel
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NBC News cut ties with former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel just days after announcing her hiring as an on-air contributor, a decision which prompted an on-air protest by MSNBC anchors on Monday. 

“After listening to the legitimate concerns of many of you, I have decided that Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor,” NBCU News Group chairman Cesar Conde wrote in a memo to staff, obtained by TheWrap. 

While the initial decision to hire McDaniel was “unanimous across leadership,” the internal and external backlash has continued to mount against leadership to reverse course. 

McDaniel’s contract was approximately $300,000 a year, however, she is no longer represented by CAA, the agency that helped broker the deal, and is interviewing attorneys to engage in a possible legal fight with the network, according to an insider with knowledge of the situation.

The McDaniel debacle is a significant black eye for Conde, who has been in the role since May 2020.

In his memo, Conde took “full responsibility” for the controversy, apologizing to “our team members who felt we let them down.”

“No organization, particularly a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesive and aligned,” Conde wrote. “Over the last few days, it has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal.”

In the hiring announcement on Friday, NBC News senior VP of politics Carrie Budoff Brown wrote, “It couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team.”

It appears the network’s staff did not agree with that notion. 

The on-air criticism of the decision was kicked off by NBC News’ Chuck Todd, who appeared on “Meet the Press” following McDaniel’s interview on Sunday’s show. Todd slammed the network for putting “Meet the Press” anchor Kristen Welker in a difficult position for hiring McDaniel just days prior to an independently scheduled interview intended to hold her to account.

MSNBC immediately distanced itself from the decision to hire McDaniel, and an unprecedented series of journalists went on the air and social media to denounce the decision, including Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid, Jen Psaki, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. 

Maddow took time to explain MSNBC’s position on the hiring on Monday, saying that after backlash to the decision internally, MSNBC leadership “adjusted course.”

“Ronna McDaniel will not appear on MSNBC, so says our boss since Saturday, and it has never been anything other than clear,” Maddow said in a nearly 30-minute monologue on the subject of the hiring. 

Maddow also argued that “there has been an effort since by other parts of the company to muddy that up in the press and make it seem like that’s not what happened at MSNBC.”

On Saturday, MSNBC president Rashida Jones told employees that the network has no plans to use McDaniel as a contributor on their programming, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal and by Maddow’s own account.

However, an individual with knowledge of the situation pushed back against the notion of a “formal edict” regarding McDaniel’s MSNBC contribution on Monday. 

While the network has seen backlash over partisan contributor hires in the past, the outpouring of frustration that played out on MSNBC’s airwaves on Monday is rare. 

It was also previously reported that other networks were interested in hiring McDaniel, including CNN. However, CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported on Monday that CEO Mark Thomson said he “never” would have added McDaniel to the network’s payroll as a contributor. 

Read the full memo announcing the decision to staff below:

Hey all,

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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
Our initial decision 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.
 
Take Care,
Cesar

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