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NBC cut ties with Ronna McDaniel after extraordinary pressure, but its problems aren’t over

New York CNN  —  Only 80 hours elapsed between NBC News announcing Ronna McDaniel as a paid contributor and the network ousting her from that very role. But for the leadership at NBC Universal News Group, those were 80 hours. On Tuesday evening, following another full day in which the media rumor mill churned at warp speed, NBCU News Group boss Cesar Conde sent staff a memo, notifying his troops that he had reversed his decision to welcome the former Republican National Committee chair to “the team.” “After listening to the legitimate concerns of many of you, I have decided that Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor,” Conde said, adding that he wanted to “personally apologize to our team members who felt we let them down.” Conde had no real choice. The embattled NBCU boss, who I’m told dealt with the crisis from an unknown location outside of 30 Rock, was facing an unprecedented rebellion from his most high-profile stars, who one by one went on the air and excoriated leadership’s decision to hire McDaniel. The only aspect of Conde’s note that was surprising was the fact that it came 48 hours late, allowing what started off as a crisis to fester and balloon into one of the worst corporate public relations calamities in recent memory. “What a sh*t show!” a media executive exclaimed to me Tuesday shortly after Conde relieved McDaniel of her NBC News credentials. In his note, Conde said he took “full responsibility” for McDaniel’s hire. But, he also did point the finger, telling staffers that hiring her was “a collective recommendation by some members of our leadership team.” Indeed, multiple people familiar with the matter have told me that the infighting among NBC executives over who was at fault for the disaster has reached a fever pitch, with various factions of the NBCU News Group assigning blame to others. Ronna McDaniel's participation in the plot to subvert the 2020 vote and lengthy track record of smearing NBC News and MSNBC led to an internal and external backlash culminating in her ouster. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images Regardless of who is to blame, the entire affair made clear who is actually in control of the company — and it’s not Conde & Co. Despite the NBCU C-suite digging their heels in the sand as they resisted dumping McDaniel for days, they were ultimately forced to succumb to pressure from their talent. As a second media executive commented to me, it is now “very clear who is in charge” after the “weak leadership was put on full display.” “Has Cesar lost the room?” wondered a third media executive. While the Peacock family argues over who was really at fault, the company is facing a fresh public relations mess. Led by Donald Trump, right-wing personalities are already assailing the network as being overrun with intolerant woke leftists. “These Radical Left Lunatics are CRAZY and the top people at NBC ARE WEAK,” Trump raged on his Truth Social platform. Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary under President George W. Bush, wrote on X: “What NBC is saying is if you’re for Trump, you don’t belong. Good. Let NBC be for Democrats only.” Of course, that narrative is intellectually dishonest. The objection to McDaniel from both within and outside of NBCU was not that she is a Republican. It wasn’t even that she was a Trump-supporting Republican. No, the objection stemmed from the fact that McDaniel was an active participant in the plot to subvert the 2020 vote. And, in addition to that disgraceful history, she had a lengthy track record smearing NBC News and MSNBC. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), speaks ahead of the third Republican presidential primary debate at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, on November 8, 2023. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images Related article NBC News ousts Ronna McDaniel after network’s anchors launch unprecedented on-air rebellion Nevertheless, NBCU will now have to contend with such dishonest attacks being leveled by the right, which will follow them in the days, months, and even years to come. As unfair as it may be, they will certainly damage the network’s brand in Republican circles — a place it had gone through great pains to appeal to. NBCU will also have to grapple with McDaniel, who spent the last 24 hours or so interviewing lawyers as she gears up for a possible legal fight with the network, according to a person familiar with the matter. The rift between McDaniel and NBCU had grown to such an extent by Tuesday that she was not informed by network brass that she had been dismissed, I’m told. Instead, McDaniel learned of her ouster in press reports. While NBCU is being beaten up on the right, the company’s leadership was quickly praised by its journalists and top stars. Shortly after Conde sent out his memo, Rachel Maddow appeared on Joy Reid’s show, where the two lauded Conde for reversing course. “I think it is a show of strength and a show of respect for the people who work at this company and make us who we are,” Maddow said. “That leadership was willing to change on this, I’m grateful to them.”