NBC Makes Brief, but Shameful Hire

Television networks have been broadcasting nightly news programs since 1948, and while the length of those programs varied, they all had one thing in common — a sense of journalistic integrity in which anchors and reporters presented factual news of the day without personal comment or opinion. Certainly programs like “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” allowed network journalists to interview newsmakers who expressed opinions, but those guests were neither paid by the networks, nor did they ever try to overthrow the government.

In 1980 Ted Turner launched CNN, the world’s first 24/7 all-news channel and, like the big three networks, his anchors and reporters stuck to covering the news, not making it. Two years later Turner carved out a regular time slot on CNN for “Crossfire,” television’s first talk show where two professional journalists debated issues. Unfortunately, within a couple of decades CNN started integrating the debate format into every news hour. Suddenly their news anchors were allowed to express opinions, and instead of just reading the news, they also moderated a discussion among journalists and political operatives, some of whom were paid to appear. Nevertheless, those panelists, while often politically biased, were not allowed to traffic in lies or hate speech. That news industry paradigm shifted radically late last month when NBC announced the hiring of Ronna McDaniel as a “political analyst.”

McDaniel had served as chairperson of the Republican National Committee since 2017 and was a Trump loyalist until the former president recently ousted her to make way for new leadership, including North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley and Trump’s daughter-in-law Laura. That left McDaniel without a job, but not for long. Almost immediately NBC came knocking at her door. The Peacock network’s decision would have been OK had McDaniel possessed a moral compass and some modicum of credibility, but she brought neither with her to the new job.

Upon hearing of McDaniels’ hiring, NBC Chief Political Analyst Chuck Todd said, “There’s a reason a lot of journalists at NBC are uncomfortable with this.” That was an understatement. Todd noted that McDaniel had engaged in “gaslighting” and “character assassination” when dealing with the news media. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Among other things, McDaniel directly participated in Trump’s illegal scheme to overturn the 2020 election. As a result, she was a party to obstruction and her lies were a catalyst to the attack on our Capitol, which she never condemned, UNTIL she signed on with NBC.

Suddenly McDaniel began to back pedal on her support for Trump’s “big lie” and the January 6 insurrection. Speaking with NBC’s Kristen Welker, McDaniel said, “When you’re the RNC chair, you kind of take one for the whole team. Right now, I get to be a little bit more myself.” No one was buying her flippant attempt to revise history.

MSNBC anchor Nicole Wallace let her bosses know that hiring McDaniel was “nothing short of a potential threat to democracy.” Said Wallace, “NBC News is either wittingly or unwittingly teaching election deniers that what they can do stretches well beyond appearing on our air to peddle lies about the sanctity and integrity of our elections.”

NBC brass had heard enough, and within days of hiring McDaniel, they fired her. Oddly enough, the most accurate assessment of the debacle came from McDaniels’ former boss. Writing on Truth Social, Donald Trump said, “Wow! Ronna McDaniel got fired by Fake News NBC. She only lasted two days, and this after McDaniel went out of her way to say what they wanted to hear.”

I suppose that NBC news executives can be praised for canning McDaniel, but even their swift reversal was too little too late. The damage to the network’s credibility had already been done. Their initial decision was hasty and ill-advised. Moreover, their bean counter mentality led them to believe that ratings and ad revenues would increase by simply giving a platform to someone who could attract a large number of radical insurrectionist viewers. Their logic was unsound. Sadly, so was their judgment.

 
 

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