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NBC is criticized by one of its own after hiring ex-RNC chair Ronna McDaniel


NBC News faces heat from some of its own journalists after hiring the former chief of the Republican Party, Ronna McDaniel, as a paid contributor. NBC's chief political analyst, Chuck Todd, spoke about the hiring with NBC's "Meet The Press" moderator, Kristen Welker.


CHUCK TODD: I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation, because I don't know what to believe. She is now a paid contributor by NBC News. I have no idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn't want to mess up her contract.

INSKEEP: Todd also said that many NBC journalists are uncomfortable with this decision. So let's discuss it with NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve. How are you?

INSKEEP: I'm doing OK. Good to talk with you again. So when Chuck Todd spoke there, he was referring to an interview with Ronna McDaniel on NBC's "Meet The Press." How did it go?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you start - the start of it with Welker introducing the interview, it was kind of uncomfortable. She addressed the audience directly, and she said, look, we've just hired McDaniel, but I'm interviewing her as a news figure, not a colleague. In fact, this interview was scheduled before we knew anything about the hiring. And then she pressed McDaniel on a number of key issues. It was a, you know, it was a fair interview. She got McDaniel, in particular, to condemn the violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the day of the famous certification of President Biden's win, said - McDaniel did so. She said that isn't right.

And then she asked, why not say so at the time? McDaniel responded, while I was at the RNC chair, you take one - you kind of take one for the whole team. Right now, I get to be a little more myself. And that wound up Chuck Todd up. They had him there. It was a very intense couple minutes. Let's say credit to NBC for airing it. But Chuck Todd said, look, our executives owe you an apology, as we just heard. And notably, Welker didn't contradict him. Many others from NBC News then tweeted out that video throughout the day yesterday with a series of critiques.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking that that quote gets at what is distinct here. Plenty of political figures have gone into media. Every once in a while, a media figure goes back the other way. So that is not that unusual. But in this case, we have a polarizing figure who admitted on television that she said things in the past that she herself didn't believe.

FOLKENFLIK: Right. So look, this is a woman - let's be clear for the audience - a clear Trump ally. She was the head of the Republican National Committee from 2017 till just a few days ago, when she was pushed out by Trump. And she was able to have that job because she embraced him entirely. So you saw somebody who, for years, has been attacking the legitimacy of the press, including NBC, attacked legitimacy of Biden's election, especially in her home state of Michigan. We've got a clip now I'd like to play for you from an interview she gave last summer to CNN's Chris Wallace.


RONNA MCDANIEL: But I don't think he won it fair. I don't. I'm not going to say that.

CHRIS WALLACE: You're saying you're not sure, as the Republican Party chair, that he was the legitimately elected president.

MCDANIEL: I'm saying there were lots of problems with the 2020 election, and we need to fix it going forward.

FOLKENFLIK: Beyond that, as Katie Phang notes, she, you know, McDaniel deemed by a judge she was a necessary material witness for a case in Georgia with unique knowledge about this fake electors conspiracy to overturn the race. Pheng was not only a lawyer and prosecutor but also host on MSNBC.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, why did NBC think this hiring made sense?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, this falls into a conventional thinking that networks - news networks do that they want to hire voices so they have them on board and present them to the nation, explain things to the nation. Unfortunately, we're in a different, unconventional moment where you have people who have been attacking the legitimacy of the press themself. They've just brought somebody in house.

INSKEEP: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Always a pleasure to hear from you, sir.


(SOUNDBITE OF THE LASZLO PROJECT'S "LAZY DAISY") 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.

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.