Home » ‘The elephant in the room’: NBC’s McDaniel hiring sparks on-air criticism from one of its own

‘The elephant in the room’: NBC’s McDaniel hiring sparks on-air criticism from one of its own

Ronna McDaniel may have secured a gig as a political contributor at one of America’s top left-leaning news networks, but it’s clear at least some of the journalists there aren’t happy about it.

Former “Meet the Press” host and one of America’s most prominent political journalists Chuck Todd castigated the leadership of his own company, one of the nation’s most powerful media conglomerates, during its flagship’s live broadcast.

“Let me deal with the elephant in the room. I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation,” Todd began, before he eviscerated NBC’s decision to hire McDaniel in a minuteslong monologue, levying unprecedented on-air criticism against his own bosses.

“Look, there’s a reason why there’s a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this because many of our professional dealings with the RNC over the six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination,” Todd added.

The stunning on-air moment came after the current host of NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Kristen Welker, interviewed McDaniel, who had been named a political contributor for the network just days earlier after her very public ousting as Republican National Committee chair.

It was an explosive moment reflecting long-harbored tensions in the news media about how to cover former President Donald Trump and his crusade to overturn the 2020 election he lost — and how to engage with the former president’s loyal acolytes amid a tumultuous reelection campaign.

It wasn’t long after the news broke that McDaniel would be joining NBC as an on-air contributor that her old quotes began flying around social media: McDaniel accusing the media of “stealing our faith in the election process,” referring to MSNBC reporters as “primetime propagandists” and refusing to clearly say that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

Reporters at NBC News were among many of those highlighting McDaniel’s questionable history with the media and willingness to bend the truth amid pressure from the party’s leader.

The outcry reached such a fever pitch that by Saturday night when Rashida Jones, the president of MSNBC (a cable arm of the NBC News division) told employees that there were no plans to have McDaniel on the channel, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And then came Todd’s forceful on-air remarks, signaling that the McDaniel interview on “Meet the Press” was journalistically problematic.

“She is now a paid contributor by NBC News. And I have no idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn’t want to mess up her contract. … she has credibility issues that she still has to deal with,” Todd said.

He also repeatedly praised Welker, who took over as host of “Meet The Press” when he moved into a new role last year, while blasting NBC’s decision makers for putting her in “an impossible situation.”

“I think you did everything you could do. You got put into an impossible situation, booking this interview and then all of a sudden the rug [is] pulled out from under you, you find out she’s being paid to show up. That is unfortunate for this program,” Todd said.

According to MSNBC host Symone Sanders Townsend, Welker and the “Meet the Press” team had already booked McDaniel for the show when they learned she had been hired by the company.

“When the news finally did come out she was now being paid by the network, MTP and Welker had a choice to make. Either: 1) cancel the interview and take the external backlash or 2) keep it, ask real [questions] and take the internal backlash from the peeps in charge,” Sanders Townsend posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “They clearly chose option 2.”

NBC News declined to comment.

Todd joined other prominent voices at and outside of the company who have publicly criticized NBC’s decision to hire McDaniel, who repeatedly criticized the media and for months supported Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. McDaniel first clearly acknowledged Biden’s victory almost a year after the election.

MSNBC columnist Marisa Kabas slammed the move in an email she said she sent to NBC, which she also posted on social media.

“As columnists we are held to strict standards of factuality and truth, and are expected to have a fundamental understanding of our democracy,” Kabas wrote. “McDaniel has proven time and again she adheres to none of those values, and lacks that very basic understanding.”

“McDaniel lied about the 2020 election result, was involved in a pressure campaign to get Michigan officials not to certify the vote, and has accused MSNBC of ‘spreading lies’ and employing ‘primetime propagandists,’” former MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan posted on X shortly after the news of McDaniel’s move broke.

MSNBC has made it a somewhat regular practice to cut away from Trump speeches, including his primary election victory speeches in Iowa and on Super Tuesday, in order to offer fact checks to the former president’s claims.

President Joe Biden’s campaign has implored the media to call out the former president’s more incendiary remarks on the campaign trail, and has taken to roasting Trump and his allies themselves on social media.

Some in the Biden camp reveled in Todd’s condemnation on Sunday. TJ Ducklo, a senior communications adviser on the Biden campaign, reposted a clip of Todd’s speech and a post from Sanders Townsend: “Today’s panel on Meet the Press thoroughly understood the assignment. If you haven’t watched it, you should.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this report misspelled Mehdi Hasan’s name.


March 2024