Chuck Todd Blasts NBC News On-Air Over Ronna McDaniel Hire

Chuck Todd left moderating duties at “Meet the Press” behind several months ago, but he isn’t through with the show yet.

During a surprising appearance on Sunday’s broadcast of the program on NBC, Todd took issue with a decision to hire former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel as an NBC News contributor, then put her on “Meet the Press” for an interview with current moderator Kristen Welker, who had booked McDaniel prior to the hiring becoming known.

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“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?” Todd said Sunday. “It’s unfortunate for this program, but I am glad you did the best that you could.”

McDaniel’s hire as a contributor was unveiled Friday, and has sparked concerns about her ability to speak truthfully on air to NBC News’ audience. In the past, McDaniel has called into question the validity of the 2020 presidential election and suggested journalists were promoting propaganda.

“Our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation,” Todd said to Welker, in separate remarks. Welker disclosed on air that a possible booking of McDaniel had been in the works for weeks and that she was not involved in the decision to hire her.

Todd’s remarks appear to be a rebuke aimed at Carrie Budoff Brown, the NBC News executive who oversees political coverage and “Meet the Press,” or Rebecca Blumenstein, the NBC News president to whom she reports. Blumenstein joined NBC News from the New York Times last year, and has, since her arrival, made hires aimed at bolstering NBC News’ investigative efforts and political coverage. During her early tenure, NBC News hired David Rohde from the New Yorker, installed Welker at “Meet the Press” and orchestrated a change in command at “Dateline.”

NBC News leaders all supported the move to hire McDaniel, according to a person familiar with the matter, in part due to concerns that the current news report lacked voices reflecting the current Republican Party.

During the interview, Welker pushed McDaniel on her views on the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election as well as former President Trump’s promise to pardon anyone punished for involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Most controversial decisions by TV news outlets are discussed behind the camera, not in front of it. But NBC News has been called out by its journalists in the past. In 2019, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow delivered a stinging monologue in primetime during her cable program that examined concerns about NBC News’ treatment of Ronan Farrow, who had begun investigating disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein while at NBC News, then took his work to the New Yorker after NBC declined to put his work on air.

NBC News’ decision to hire McDaniel has clearly rankled some staffers, with MSNBC president Rashida Jones issuing calling top producers and anchors Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter, telling them they had no mandate to book McDaniel or to keep her off their programs.

“There’s a reason why there’s a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this, because many of our professional dealings over the past six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination,” Todd said. He suggested McDaniel’s contributor deal was made in exchange “for access.”

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