So Chuck Todd Apparently Runs NBC News Now?

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

It's been a frantic few days at NBC Universal, NBC News, and MSNBC. Immediately after the surprising announcement that former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel would be joining the network "on all platforms" as a paid contributor, a civil war broke out among the liberal broadcasters. One of the senior people at MSNBC flatly stated that McDaniel "would not be appearing" on any shows on that network. Chuck Todd demanded an apology from the management to the 60 Minutes host who conducted the new hire's first and apparently only interview. And now, the News Group Chairman of parent company NBCUniversal has raised the white flag and announced that McDaniel's contract would be terminated and she would not be taking up her new role. This begs the obvious question of who is actually in charge at that network. Because it's clearly not the top management. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)

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NBC News cut ties with Ronna McDaniel mere days after it hired the former Republican National Committee chairwoman as a contributor, a dramatic about-face that followed a very public rebuke from some of its biggest stars. 

The move, which was announced Tuesday in a memo, caps a frantic four days for NBC News, which had looked to bring in a conservative voice to its political coverage ahead of the presidential election but instead became the target of broad condemnations from observers and employees alike. 

“No organization, particularly a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesive and aligned,” Cesar Conde, NBCUniversal’s News Group chairman, wrote in the memo. “Over the last few days, it has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal.”

It's difficult to imagine another organization where something like this would take place. There are times when a company's stockholders can force personnel changes if they start a revolt, but that's the power of ownership in action. Senior management makes hiring decisions and they are expected to be held responsible for the results. The other employees do not make those calls. If I showed up here tomorrow and published a massive diatribe demanding the removal of Ed Morrissey, I can assure you that I would be browsing the "help wanted" listings by dinnertime. 

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You could almost understand the pushback if NBC had decided to hire someone completely unqualified for the position, though even then the debate would probably be handled through private channels internally. But McDaniel was hired to provide opinions and commentary about politics and elections after having literally presided over one of the two major American political parties. She's an eloquent speaker and knows all of the inside players, whether you care for her political views or not. The fact that Chuck Todd, Joe Scarborough, and Rachel Maddow can stomp their feet and threaten to hold their breath until their faces turn blue and force this sort of reversal is an embarrassment to NBCUniversal. 

So what's next for Ronna McDaniel? According to Politico. it's a very big payday. She intends to be paid the full amount agreed upon for her two-year contract, and that turns out to be an impressive, six-figure payout.

The ramifications of NBC’s decision yesterday to part ways with contributor RONNA McDANIEL just two days after her paid network debut on “Meet the Press” are just starting to shake out. But they could be expensive.

McDaniel expects to be fully paid out for her contract, two years at $300,000 annually, since she did not breach its terms, we’re told — meaning that her single, not-quite-20-minute interview Sunday could cost the Peacock more than $30,000 per minute, or $500 per second.

That’s just one tidbit we’ve picked up from McDaniel’s side of things following yesterday’s announcement from NBCUniversal News Group Chair CESAR CONDE, and it might be just the beginning of the fallout.

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Woof. Five hundred dollars per second? Good work if you can get it, as the saying goes. But that might not be the end of the story. It's being reported that Ronna McDaniel has enlisted the services of Bryan Freedman, an attorney who has successfully represented many cable news personalities in disputes with their employers. 

But what sort of legal action could she pursue if NBC pays off her contract in full? For starters, she could conceivably claim defamation by the other cable anchors or even a hostile work environment (for the nearly 20 minutes she was in said environment). Those same people may have poisoned the well for her and spoiled her opportunities for a position with the other networks that were in talks with her until NBC briefly snapped her up. That sort of a case could run into the millions, and NBCUniversal may find itself in a position where it will be cheaper to just pay her off and make all of this go away rather than dragging out a very public food fight in the courts. Perhaps Chuck Todd, Scarborough, and Maddow should put up the money to cover that tab. They all seem to be pretty well compensated.


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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 15, 2024
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