NBC’s Chuck Todd lays into his network for hiring former RNC chief Ronna McDaniel as an analyst

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NEW YORK — Former NBC News “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd criticized his network Sunday for hiring former Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel as a paid contributor, saying on the air that many NBC journalists are uncomfortable with the decision.

Todd spoke on “Meet the Press” after his successor as moderator, Kristen Welker, interviewed McDaniel about her role in the 2020 election aftermath.

“Our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation because I don’t know what to believe,” Todd said. “I don’t have any idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn’t want to mess up her contract” with NBC, he said.

McDaniel “has credibility issues that she has to deal with: Is she speaking for herself or is she speaking on behalf of who is paying for her?”

Todd said many NBC journalists are uncomfortable with the hiring because some of their professional dealings with the RNC during McDaniel’s tenure “have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination.”

NBC had no comment on Todd’s statement. The network announced McDaniel’s hiring on Friday, two weeks after she stepped down as the RNC leader, saying McDaniel would add to NBC News’ coverage with an insider’s perspective on national politics and the future of the Republican Party.

“NBC News has a legacy of serving its audience through reporting that reflects and examines the diverse perspectives of American voters,” Carrie Budoff Brown, NBC’s senior vice president for politics, said in a memo to staff members obtained by The Associated Press. She said McDaniel would contribute her analysis “across all NBC News platforms.”

One of the network’s platforms is the cable network MSNBC, which appeals to liberal viewers. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that MSNBC’s president, Rashida Jones, had told employees that the network has no plans to have McDaniel on the channel.

MSNBC would not comment on that report on Sunday. An MSNBC executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person would not publicly discuss internal matters, said it would be up to individual network shows to decide whether to bring McDaniel on — not that there is a network-wide ban.

It’s not unusual for television news outlets to hire politicians as analysts and commentators. One of McDaniel’s predecessors at the RNC, Michael Steele, is an MSNBC contributor who hosts a weekend news program there. CBS News faced some backlash for hiring two former officials in the Trump administration, Reince Priebus and Mick Mulvaney, as analysts. Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former White House communications director during the Trump administration, became a CNN political commentator.

But McDaniel’s tacit endorsement of Trump’s false claims that the outcome of the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent makes her hiring even more sensitive, given the continuing legal and political ripples of the Jan. 6, 2021, siege at the U.S. Capitol that was an outgrowth of the fraud allegations.

A former Trump press secretary, Sean Spicer, chided Todd on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday. “Did he ever show concern about Jen Psaki joining the left-wing network? Symone Sanders?” he asked, citing two former Biden administration officials working at MSNBC.

Yet McDaniel’s role in supporting Trump and some of his comments about the 2020 election, and the speed of her switch to a media job after being forced out of the RNC by Trump, attracted particular attention. The phrase #BoycottNBCNews was trending on X Sunday.

McDaniel’s interview on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” had been booked prior to the announcement that she’d been hired by the network.

During the interview, McDaniel acknowledged that Biden won the 2020 election “fair and square.” That was a reversal from a comment she made on CNN last summer, when she said “I don’t think he won it fair. I don’t.”

On Sunday, she said, “the reality is Joe Biden won. He’s the president. He’s the legitimate president. I have always said, and I continue to say, there were issues in 2020. I believe that both can be true.”

Under questioning from Welker, McDaniel said Sunday that she disagreed with Trump’s contention that people jailed for their part in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol should be freed.

“Why not speak out earlier?” Welker asked.

“When you’re the RNC chair you kind of take one for the whole team, right?” McDaniel said. “Now I get to be a little bit more myself, right? This is what I believe.”

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Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder

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