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MSNBC, NBC leaders were caught flat-footed, out of touch with staff on Ronna McDaniel fiasco: Insider

NBC's disastrous hiring and hasty termination of ex-RNC chair Ronna McDaniel revealed serious leadership problems at the network, an insider says.

MSNBC President Rashida Jones and NBCUniversial News Group Chairman Cesar Conde came out looking like they didn't understand their own staffers after this week's Ronna McDaniel debacle, a network insider tells Fox News Digital.

Exactly one week after proudly announcing the hiring of McDaniel, the former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, as a paid analyst, NBC is still reeling after an unprecedented tongue-lashing from its own stars, media critics and even prominent Democrats. McDaniel was dumped after just four days and is seeking all $600,000 from her lucrative contract. Republicans and conservatives observing the fiasco were left with even less trust in NBC News and the media writ large than ever.

And Jones and Conde were left thunderstruck after signing off on bringing McDaniel on as an analyst and getting a staff-wide revolt for their troubles. The pair are "corporate climbers," an insider told Fox News Digital, who are happier to please parent company Comcast than take care of their employees.

Neither are in touch with their own staff, the insider said, because "they just didn't see the blowback coming." Meanwhile, Comcast, led by CEO Brian Roberts and President Michael Cavanagh, is happy to put aside platforming "election deniers and anti-democratic sentiment" in favor of less regulation and lower taxes, the insider added.


The situation has only fostered more internal mistrust of NBC's corporate leadership.

A former high-ranking MSNBC executive tells Fox News Digital, "There’s now an obvious line drawn between NBC/MSNBC anchors and correspondents, and the executives who oversee them. The talent doesn’t trust the execs and the execs don’t trust the talent."

"This embarrassing infighting shows that NBC News has lost all legitimacy as an objective news operation. MSNBC’s woke, far-left theocracy now controls everything," one former NBC News staffer said. "Tim Russert must be rolling in his grave." 

Indeed, NBC News leadership did not anticipate how bad the reaction would be as soon as McDaniel's hire was announced last week, sources said, and top talent was not kept in the loop about the decision.

One source at NBC News told Fox News Digital before McDaniel was kicked to the curb they were "blindsided" by the McDaniel hire and added, "I haven't spoken to a single person who thinks it's a good idea."

The outcry was immediate and fervent, both inside and outside the network, with everyone from past contributors to on-air talent lining up against platforming McDaniel due to her close ties to former President Trump and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 


Voices like Jen Psaki, a former Biden White House press secretary who hosts her own MSNBC program, bristled at right-wing criticism that this was simply about partisan politics. Rather, she and others insisted, McDaniel's association with the "Big Lie" made her beyond the pale, although Psaki, Rachel Maddow and others have pushed such fallen narratives as Hunter Biden's laptop being Russian disinformation and the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory.

Puck’s Dylan Byers's noted Conde, NBC News senior vice president of politics Carrie Budoff Brown and NBC News President Rebecca Blumenstein were all part of a "nearly two-month-long effort" to recruit McDaniel.

"Like many news executives navigating this hyperpartisan political era, Budoff Brown and Blumenstein had been eager to find semi-palatable conservative voices who could offer insight into the Trump campaign and widen the aperture of perspectives on election night panels and Sunday morning roundtables. They saw McDaniel as that voice and, over the course of the recruiting process, Conde and several of his deputies embraced that idea as well," Byers wrote. 

Byers' report noted intricate details of the process to recruit McDaniel, adding that MSNBC's Jones was also jazzed to add her to the mix. The deal was eventually finalized and "Conde reached out to congratulate McDaniel," according to Byers.


The blowback started immediately last Friday on social media, but things quickly deteriorated further.

McDaniel had been previously booked for her first interview since resigning as RNC chair on Sunday's "Meet the Press." However, host Kristen Welker was put in the position of explaining to viewers she was uninvolved with hiring McDaniel and proceeded to sharply question her for 20 minutes, at one point suggesting she lacked credibility and should apologize for her past conduct at the RNC.

It got even more explosive in the panel discussion afterward, as former "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd went off on NBC leadership and said Welker deserved an apology.

"There’s a reason why there are a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this, because many of our professional dealings with the RNC over the last six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination," Todd said.

Even as reports emerged of Jones telling MSNBC talent that McDaniel didn't have to appear on their airwaves, that didn't stop hosts on the left-leaning cable channel from following Todd's example. 

In an extraordinary rebuke of network leadership on Monday, "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski called on NBC to reverse their decision and announced McDaniel would never be welcome on their flagship morning program.

Then partisan hosts Psaki, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell delivered similar messages that afternoon and evening. It was perhaps Maddow's monologue that was most telling. The network's biggest star took it upon herself to play spokesperson for the network and made Jones look weak, confirming speculation that Jones did not object to NBC's hiring of McDaniel but changed her tune when MSNBC staff "essentially unanimously and instantly expressed outrage."


"Ronna McDaniel will not be on MSNBC," Maddow said. "And I say that and give you that level of detail because there has been an effort since by other parts of the company to muddy that up in the press and make it seem like that's not what happened at MSNBC. I can assure you that is what happened at MSNBC."

By the time Maddow was playing clean-up, NBC leadership was already actively considering dumping McDaniel as an analyst, Fox News Digital learned. By Tuesday afternoon, it was official, as Conde sent a memo to staff apologizing for the disastrous situation and announcing McDaniel would not be a paid contributor.

Conde acknowledged McDaniel's hiring had undermined the goal of a "cohesive and aligned" newsroom.

"I want to personally apologize to our team members who felt we let them down," Conde wrote. "While this was a collective recommendation by some members of our leadership team, I approved it and take full responsibility for it."

He continued, "Our initial decision was made because of our deep commitment to presenting our audiences with a wide 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."

The MSNBC insider said Conde had thrown his underlings "under the bus" with the memo and was either not a good boss or a good newsman for not recognizing how poorly the situation would play out.

McDaniel has hired legal representation and is seeking all $600,000 of her two-year contract. Since she only appeared for 20 minutes on NBC, that would amount to $500 per second of airtime.

Spokespersons for NBC News and Comcast didn't respond to requests for comment.

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