NBC’s Ronna McDaniel Hire Wasn’t Politics, or TV, as Usual

For the past week the best drama on NBC — apologies to Dick Wolf — has been in the news department.

On Friday, NBC News announced that it was hiring Ronna McDaniel, the former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, as a political analyst. By Sunday morning, Kristen Welker was grilling Ms. McDaniel on “Meet the Press,” after which the former host Chuck Todd told his successor on-air that their bosses “owe you an apology.” By Monday morning, the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” condemned the hire. By Monday night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow likened it to hiring “a mobster to work at a D.A.’s office.”

And by Tuesday, Ms. McDaniel was officially out as an NBC News contributor, having lasted not even a half-Scaramucci.

Not long ago, a TV news outlet hiring a former political bigwig might have occasioned grumbling from members of the other party, critiques from journalism watchdogs or anonymous griping among the staff. But it happened, and life went on. This kind of full-on, on-air revolt was something else — because Ms. McDaniel’s hiring was something else.

The fiasco at NBC was in part a sign of how media outlets are struggling to cover politics in unusual times. But it was also a battle over how willing they should be to normalize ideas and actions that, in the post–Jan. 6 era, go well beyond politics as usual.

The staff rebellion over Ms. McDaniel, after all, was not about her views on entitlement reform or health-care policy. It was about her statements and actions around the attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Throughout November and December of 2020 she supported former President Trump’s efforts to throw out the election results to stay in office, and at one point in the effort called Michigan election officials to ask them to delay certifying the state’s results

And although she didn’t back Mr. Trump’s most far-fetched election-theft scenarios, she continued to say, as in a 2023 interview with Chris Wallace, that she didn’t think President Biden “won it fair.” (Doing damage control in her interview with Ms. Welker, she called Mr. Biden “the legitimate president.”)

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