MSNBC Anchor Hit Parade Assails Ronna McDaniel Hire at NBC News; ‘Inexplicable,’ Says Rachel Maddow

A long line of MSNBC’s most popular anchors spent Monday calling out the network’s corporate sibling, NBC News, for its hire of former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel in a stunning display of internal rifts laid bare on the TV screen.

The hire of McDaniel as a contributor is “inexplicable,” Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC Monday night as part of a half-hour commercial-free monologue that painted the former politico as one in a line of fascists and would-be usurpers who have tried to take over America’s political process. McDaniel, who during her time as RNC head helped former President Donald Trump in his efforts to nullify the 2020 presidential election, said Maddow, “is part of an ongoing project to get rid of our system of government.”

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NBC News raised hackles late last week when it disclosed it had hired McDaniel as a political contributor. Within days, prominent staffers at NBC News and MSNBC pushed back on the decision, charging that McDaniel’s efforts to assist Trump and cast aspersions on journalists made her unfit to serve at in a paid position at a journalism organization.

The on-screen outrage makes McDaniel’s tenure at NBC untenable, according to people familiar with the workings of the news division, with most hard-pressed to think what producer or program would still have her make an appearance. Internally, some staffers are surprised that Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, or Rebecca Blumenstein, the president of newsgathering at NBC News, have not reversed course on McDaniel.

NBC News declined to comment Monday evening.

Maddow’s remarks came after other segments delivered on MSNBC’s schedule on Monday from Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of “Morning Joe”; Nicolle Wallace on “Deadline: White House”; Joy Reid on “The ReidOut” and Jennifer Psaki on “Inside.” Of the group, only Psaki delivered relatively succinct comments, telling viewers that while she and McDaniel may both have backgrounds as political operatives, they could not be more different in their efforts in a news organization. McDaniel, said Psaki, “does not get us closer to anything in the political debate.”

Wallace and Reid, for their part, brought on guests, including a Yale legal scholar and conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, to question the decision to put McDaniel on air as a paid contributor.

But the outrage was kicked off at NBC News. Chuck Todd, the former “Meet The Press” moderator, led the charge by telling current anchor Kristen Welker on air that NBC News executives “owe you an apology for putting you in this situation.” He added: “There’s a reason why there’s a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this, because many of our professional dealings over the past six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination.” He suggested McDaniel’s contributor deal was made in exchange “for access.”

MSNBC was stirred early on by reports of McDaniel’s deal, with word that she would appear across the NBC News portfolio. Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC, got word of unrest among the network’s anchors and staff, according to people familiar with the matter, and, after listening to many parties, told employees there was no mandate for McDaniel to appear or not appear on any program.

While McDaniel’s hire was announced by Carrie Budoff Brown, the NBC News senior vice president who oversees political coverage and “Meet The Press,” the pact was signed off on by all of NBC News’ top leaders. And yet, some may not have been as plugged in as a news chief might. Under Conde, NBCUniversal’s news operations have been divided into many units — one devoted to “Today,” another to “NBC Nightly News” and streaming; a third to “Dateline,” ‘Meet The Press” and the organization of news staffing and collection. MSNBC and CNBC are run as separate divisions by other people. All report to Conde, but the result is that many of NBC News’ top programs no longer work under the governance of a single NBC News president, as they have in past years.

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