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NBC News Cuts Ties With Ronna McDaniel After Network Firestorm

NBC News Cuts Ties With Ronna McDaniel After Network Firestorm

The Ronna McDaniel era at NBC News has come to an abrupt and chaotic end.

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

Her tenure at NBC lasted four days.

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

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

“No organization, particularly a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesive and aligned,” Mr. Conde continued. “Over the last 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 dismissal through media reports on Tuesday evening, before NBC told her directly, a person close to her said.

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

He had approved her hiring to help ensure that election-year coverage included a broader 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 multiple star anchors viewed Ms. McDaniel’s involvement in Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result as disqualifying, and they lined up one by one to denounce NBC’s decision on its own airwaves.

On Monday night, Rachel Maddow devoted 29 minutes of her show — the top-rated program on MSNBC — to addressing Ms. McDaniel’s hiring, calling it “inexplicable” and associating her with historical figures who attempted authoritarian takeovers of the government. She told her bosses: “Take a minute, acknowledge that maybe it wasn’t the right call.”

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

Ms. McDaniel, who occasionally 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 its details.

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

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

The episode underscored the deeply partisan sphere in which news organizations are trying to operate — and the challenge of fairly representing conservative and pro-Trump viewpoints in their coverage, if major Republican Party figures like Ms. McDaniel are deemed unacceptable by viewers or colleagues.

Mr. Conde wrote that NBC remained “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.”

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

Ms. McDaniel had tried to walk a fine line regarding Mr. Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. She participated in a call with Mr. Trump in which he placed pressure on Michigan officials to not certify election results. But she also kept the Republican National Committee separated from many of Mr. Trump’s audacious lawsuits to overturn the results, and she confronted criticism from the Trump camp for not taking more aggressive steps to question national election processes.

The backlash at NBC has created other problems for Ms. McDaniel. She is no longer represented by CAA, which negotiated her deal with NBC, a person with knowledge of the change said.

Mr. Trump, for his part, criticized NBC on Tuesday after Ms. McDaniel’s exit. “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 had encouraged, was now in a kind of limbo.

“It 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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