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NBC News Executives Expected to Decide Ronna McDaniel’s Fate in Meeting

Former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel has only appeared once on NBC News programming in her new capacity as a political news contributor, and already, senior executives are gathering to conduct a review.

Top executives from NBC News were expected to meet Tuesday to hash out the growing controversy around her recent hire, according to two people familiar with the matter, in a bid to stop a growing insurrection by the NBCUniversal unit’s editorial staff. In recent days, prominent anchors ranging from Chuck Todd to Rachel Maddow have spoken out against the hire on NBC News’ “Meet The Press” as well as on MSNBC, charging NBC News executives with giving a platform to McDaniel despite her efforts to help former President Donald Trump dismiss the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.

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There are some people who think NBC News may have to renege on its contributor deal with McDaniel, because the growing internal outcry about her hire means many producers and anchors will be loath to book her on their programs. Others think NBC News could stand by its decision.

NBC News spokespersons did not immediately respond to queries seeking comment.

Journalists are a quarrelsome lot and often disagree with the editorial mandates of the companies for which they work, but the backlash to the decision around McDaniel has resulted in uncommon displays of rancor. On Sunday, Todd told “Meet The Press” moderator Kristen Welker that “You got put into an impossible situation, booking this interview, and then all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from under you, and you find out she’s being paid to show up?” He added: “It’s unfortunate for this program, but I am glad you did the best that you could.”

Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow capped off a day of demonstrations on MSNBC as a parade of prominent anchors made their dislike of the decision known. Maddow delivered a half-hour monologue on her Monday evening program — commercial free, to boot — likening McDaniel to others who have tried to undermine U.S. democracy and instill authoritarian rule.

All of NBC News’ senior executives signed off on the plan to bring McDaniel aboard, according to people familiar with the matter. Yet under an unorthodox corporate structure, most of those people wouldn’t be tasked with managing McDaniel’s relationships with programs and producers. Since the exit of former NBC News president Noah Oppenheim in January of last year, NBC News has been broken up into smaller units, each with its own leader. The “Today” morning franchise is managed in one unit, “NBC Nightly News” and streaming in another, and newsgathering, “Meet The Press” and “Dateline” in a third. What’s more, MSNBC and CNBC also have separate management teams.

McDaniel’s hire, seen as a bid to gain access to the thinking of the current Republican party, was announced by Carrie Budoff Brown, the NBC News executive who oversees “Meet The Press” and political coverage. But Budoff Brown reports to Rebecca Blumenstein, president of editorial for NBC News, and has little say over how McDaniel might be incorporated into “Today,” MSNBC, “NBC Nightly News” or NBC News Now, the company’s streaming outlet.

Other networks have tested similar hires. CBS News’ 2022 decision to hire Mick Mulvaney, a former Trump White House chief of staff, drew scrutiny, and CNN’s 2019 effort to bring aboard political operative Sarah Isgur, a former spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions, generated pushback after executives proposed using her in a managing editorial role.

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