Ronna McDaniel Out At NBC News After Outcry Over Paid Contributor Role At Network; CAA Drops Ex-RNC Chief As Client

NBC News has cut ties with former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, just days after she was announced as a paid analyst for the network. There had been a growing internal backlash at the division over her hire.

Meanwhile, CAA also has dropped McDaniel as a client, sources familiar with the situation tell Deadline.

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A source also confirmed reports that McDaniel was seeking potential legal options for her next steps.

NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde made the announcement about McDaniel’s exit in an memo to staffers (see it in full below). In his missive, Conde took responsibility for what happened, but it was unclear whether there will be further repercussions.

“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,” Conde wrote in the memo.

He added, “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.”

NBC News said last week that McDaniel would appear across NBC News platforms, including MSNBC, but the past few days have seen tensions escalate between the broadcast network and the cable news side. Multiple on-air NBCU personalities including Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Chuck Todd have blasted the decision to hire former the Republican National Committee chair. They focused on her support of Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and her role in his efforts to try to reverse the results. McDaniel also presided over the RNC when it censured Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, then two GOP members of Congress, because they had joined the House January 6th Committee to investigate they attack on the Capitol.

NBC News leadership initially stood by McDaniel’s hire, but on Monday a chorus of MSNBC personalities criticized the network throughout the day, with Maddow devoting almost half of her program to the matter, calling the decision “inexplicable.”

On Sunday, following McDaniel’s appearance on Meet the Press, NBC News chief political analyst Todd took part in a roundtable on the show and blasted the network for its decision.

In appearance following Conde’s announcement, Maddow said on MSNBC’s ReidOut tonight that she had “deep respect” for the network leadership for listening to “the essentially unanimous feeling” among staffers opposed to McDaniel’s hire.

“I think it is a show of strength, and I think it is a show of respect for the people who work at this company…that leadership was willing to change on this,” Maddow said. She said that the opposition was not because McDaniel was a Republican but because she was involved in Trump’s election interference efforts. “This was a real specific case,” Maddow said.

NBC News saw McDaniel as a way to increase the number of its pundit voices from the right, from a person with firsthand knowledge of the Republican Party that Trump has dominated for more than eight years. Ironically, McDaniel was ousted as Trump sought a tighter control of the RNC, installing his own allies — including daughter-in-law Lara Trump — as one of its leaders.

NBC News and other networks have grappled with how to cover Trump and his allies as the former president makes a new bid for the White House. Last year, CNN faced internal pushback for its decision to feature Trump in a town hall, which turned into a rally-like atmosphere with his supporters in the audience. MSNBC and CNN also have carried portions of Trump’s speeches, but with fact-checking as he continues to traffic in unfounded claims.

After retaining CAA, McDaniel had talks with a number of the networks for a TV gig, a common career route in Washington, D.C. for exiting public and party officials. NBCU has hired numerous figures from the political and government world, including Jen Psaki, former press secretary for President Joe Biden, and Marc Short, former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

What McDaniel apparently could bring was a closer link to Trump world, even if she was not part of the former president’s inner circle. She already had a relationship with two top executives, Rebecca Blumenstein, NBC News president, editorial, and Carrie Budoff Brown, senior vice president, politics, as the network had hosted one of the GOP primary debates this cycle. It was Brown who announced her hire to staffers in a memo on Friday, writing that McDaniel would provide “an insider’s perspective on national politics and the future of the Republican Party,” according to The New York Times.

“It couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team,” Brown wrote.

According to Maddow, MSNBC leadership didn’t object to the hiring decision. But as it was clear that there was an internal backlash to the decision, the news channel’s president, Rashida Jones, told staffers that McDaniel would not appear on the network. NBC News leadership initially stuck with the decision, apparently convinced that the pushback to the hiring was akin to some of the criticism that greeted other hires, including Psaki, only to eventually dissipate. Other networks also have faced their own controversies, like CBS News, which retained Trump’s former acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in 2022.

On Monday, one host after another on MSNBC joined Todd in publicly castigating the network for retaining McDaniel. By day’s end, after Nicolle Wallace read from a passage of On Tyranny and Maddow put the network’s decision in the context of the rise of fascism, it was pretty clear that the situation was untenable. Rarely has the news business seen such an open revolt among its prominent personalities.

NBC’s reversal came under quick criticism on the right. Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for Bush, wrote on X/Twitter, “NBC should never get to host a GOP primary debate or townhall. GOP Senators/Congressmen should not go on Meet the Press. No NBC anchor should participate in a presidential debate. What NBC is saying is if you’re for Trump, you don’t belong. Good. Let NBC be for Democrats only.”

Megyn Kelly, who had an ill-fated tenure at the network, wrote, “Such a great organization. Good luck to the next conservative who trusts these people.”

Trump reacted to the news with a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, in which he seemed to blame McDaniel for making the move to the network in the first place. On Meet the Press, McDaniel had reversed her past comments and told Kristen Welker that Biden won the 2020 election “fair and square.” She also indicated that she opposed Trump’s plan to pardon those who participated in the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Trump wrote, “Wow! Ronna McDaniel got fired by Fake News NBC. She only lasted two days, and this after McDaniel went out of her way to say what they wanted to hear. It leaves her in a very strange place, it’s called NEVER NEVERLAND, and it’s not a place you want to be. These Radical Left Lunatics are CRAZY, and the top people at NBC ARE WEAK. They were BROKEN and EMBARRASSED by LOW RATINGS, HIGHLY OVERPAID, ‘TALENT.’ BRING BACK FREE AND FAIR PRESS.”

CAA, which also has a roster of news personalities, declined to comment on the situation.

Here is Conde’s note to staffers today:

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,

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