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NBC drops former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel as a contributor following outcry

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

NBC News has dropped its newest contributor, former Republican National Committee chief Ronna McDaniel, just days after announcing it had hired her. The decision came after a newsroom revolt at NBC and withering attacks on the air from the stars of its sister channel, MSNBC. Joining us to help unpack what happened, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Good morning, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Deb.

ELLIOTT: So it hasn't even been a week since NBC News announced it had hired Ronna McDaniel. And now she's out. Tell us what played out over the past few days.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, what a brief and lustrous NBC career it was for Ronna McDaniel. You know, the outrage was pretty immediate. You saw it play out on one of their marquee news shows, "Meet The Press." If you recall, she went on to be interviewed by Kristen Welker. And instead of being an introduction, here's our newest star, there was a sense from Welker that she was taken by complete surprise. She said, I'm going to interview her as a source of news, not as a colleague. And she really did a kind of tough interview, immediately followed by Chuck Todd, the former host of "Meet The Press" on the same program saying, you know, our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in that position. That kind of set the tone, then.

You saw some people tweeting about this. And then on Monday in particular, you saw the lineup on MSNBC, their liberal sister station, going after them. You saw Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski in the morning, Nicolle Wallace in the afternoon, and pretty much the entire primetime lineup going after it. Finally, last night at just after 6 o'clock, an internal email sent out to staffers by NBC Universal News Chairman Cesar Conde personally apologized to NBC's team members, he said, who felt we left them down. He said it was a consensus decision by much of the leadership of NBC News and that they would find other ways to reflect conservative Republican voices from across the spectrum.

ELLIOTT: Quite the reversal. You had talked a little bit about the drama on Monday's program about, you know, just why she was so polarizing. What stands out now?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, two key things. I think, still, the question of somebody who had as Republican National Committee chair really attacked - at least into the press, attacked its legitimacy, echoing her patron, former president or then-President Donald Trump, and never backing down from that. And the question of also playing a role in Michigan in Trump's propagation of lies about there being election fraud, trying to convince certain local election officials not to validate Joe Biden's clear win there.

ELLIOTT: You know, it's common for TV networks to hire political figures who would help explain the Trump campaign and who have ties to the Trump campaign. Why wouldn't McDaniel be well placed to do that?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think networks should be able to present people from across the political spectrum, including people who favor or who have worked with President Trump. But the question I have is, why hire them at all? Why pay people money to do this? I've been talking about this with colleagues in the days since this appointment was announced. You know, with whom do their loyalties lie? Is it the audiences of NBC? Is it the newsroom of NBC? Is it the team that they used to work for? Is it perhaps the former President Trump or her own career aspirations, should he get back into the White House this year? And the sad thing is, this whole thing backfired. The effect is to make Republicans trust the network less than if they had done nothing with McDaniel to begin with.

ELLIOTT: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, thanks.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.