NBC reversed its decision to hire Rona McDaniel after an on-air backlash

Amid a chorus of on-air protests from some of the network's biggest stars, former Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel will no longer join the network as a paid contributor, NBC announced Tuesday night.

The announcement came in a memo from NBCUniversal News Group president Cesar Conde, who said he had heard “legitimate concerns” from several network employees. “No organization, especially a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesively aligned,” he wrote. “Over the past few days, it has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal.”

Conte apologized to staff who “felt we let them down” and took “full responsibility” for the hiring.

The network announced to employees Friday that McDaniel has signed a deal to provide “expert insight and analysis on American politics and the 2024 election.” An NBC News executive sued in a note, saying, “It couldn't have been a more important moment to have a voice like Rona's on the team.”

But the company's on-air personalities — particularly those at NBC's liberal-leaning cable affiliate MSNBC — vehemently disagreed, saying McDaniel was unfit to participate in their news segments because he promoted Donald Trump's media-bashing and false election-fraud claims.

One by one they went on air to deliver the news to their bosses in front of a live audience on Monday.

“Take a minute and admit that maybe it wasn't the right call,” MSNBC's top-rated star Rachel Maddow said on her show that night. “Admitting when you're wrong is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

The backlash over McDaniel's appointment points to the larger struggle television networks face in hiring pundits to offer a pro-Trump perspective against viewers and their own staff.

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For example, CBS News staff raised objections when Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney — another purveyor of the former president's untrue claims — was hired as a contributor two years ago. He eventually appeared on the air only occasionally and left the network after about a year.

Yet NBC also hired Mark Short, a former chief of staff to Trump's Vice President Mike Pence, in February without sparking backlash.

NBC employees expressed outrage over the agency's hiring of former Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel after years of being denied the election. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Conde said in his memo that the network is still committed to ideological diversity. “Our initial decision was made because of our deep commitment to providing our audience with a wide range of perspectives and experiences, especially during these turbulent times,” he wrote. “We remain committed to the principle that our programs should include diverse viewpoints, and to that end, we will redouble our efforts to seek out voices that represent different parts of the political spectrum.”

NBC employees argued publicly and privately that their complaint was not with McDaniel's partisanship, but with his actions.

“To be clear, we believe NBC News should seek out conservative Republican voices to provide balance in their election coverage,” co-anchor Mika Brzezinski said Monday on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.” “But it should be conservative Republicans, not a person who has used his power as an anti-democratic voter.”

“We welcome Republican voices,” prime-time host Joy Reid added later in the day. “The truth is: This was not a disagreement. He actually supported an illegal scheme to steal an election in the state of Michigan.

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McDaniel appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, where host Kristen Welker made it clear to her audience that she had no idea that McDaniel would be her soon-to-be colleague when it was scheduled to happen weeks before. Critics praised it for its aggressiveness and harshness.

After the show, political analyst Chuck Todd raised questions about McDaniel's “credibility,” telling Welker, “I don't know if she gave you any answers because she didn't want to mess up the deal..

There was backlash Monday morning when the co-hosts of “Morning Joe” said they would not have hired him. Throughout the evening lineup, MSNBC hosts took turns attacking McDaniel and the decision to hire him, which Maddow called “inexplicable.”

The situation was out of control till Tuesday morning. Although McDaniel will remain with the organization, one of its major channels has already signaled that he is not welcome to appear there, MSNBC president Rashida Jones told her hosts that she doesn't have to book him.

One of NBC's major failings in the matter, network employees and rival media executives admit, was not securing buy-in from the network's stars before hiring McDaniel.

If NBC had not reversed its decision, the network would have come under fire on Tuesday nights from prime-time hosts Chris Hayes and Alex Wagner, both of whom are defunct on Monday nights.

This is a breaking story that will be updated.

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