Chuck Todd bashes NBC News hiring of former RNC chief Ronna McDaniel

A man in a dark suit and bright blue tie smiles in front of an image of the White House.
Chuck Todd, on the Washington set of “Meet the Press,” took over as moderator in 2014.
(William B. Plowman / NBC / NBC NewsWire)

NBC News staffers are upset about the network’s hiring of former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, and one of them let viewers know about it Sunday.

Former “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, appearing on the program’s roundtable, told his successor, Kristen Welker, that “there is a reason a lot of journalists at NBC News are uncomfortable” with the decision to make McDaniel a paid contributor to the network.

McDaniel, 50, resigned from her role as RNC chairwoman on Feb. 26 and was replaced by lawyer Michael Whatley and presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. McDaniel’s new role has been met with significant backlash inside the news division, especially among the hosts and producers at progressive-leaning cable channel MSNBC.

A woman in a green outfit gestures while speaking at a podium.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel at the committee’s winter meeting in Dana Point, Calif., in 2023.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

As RNC chair, McDaniel toed the line for Trump, even supporting the former president’s false assertion that his electoral loss to President Biden in 2020 was rigged. McDaniel became known for echoing Trump’s lies on TV, even getting corrected in real time on Fox News, a sympathetic forum for Republicans.

Todd, who ended his nine-year run as moderator of “Meet the Press” in 2023, told Welker that NBC News was often subjected to “gaslighting” and character assassination when dealing with McDaniel during her term as RNC chair. He questioned how McDaniel could now be a credible source in a journalistic setting.

Todd commented after McDaniel appeared on “Meet the Press” in a previously scheduled interview with Welker, who pointed out that she was not involved in the hiring decision. In the interview, McDaniel acknowledged for the first time that Biden won the 2020 election fair and square and expressed disagreement with Trump’s plan to pardon imprisoned participants in the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol.

Social media can be cruel, but Todd says his goal is to leave the long-running public affairs program “in a better place than I got it.”

Sept. 18, 2020

Todd expressed skepticism on the sincerity of McDaniel’s remarks.

“I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation, because I don’t know what to believe,” Todd said to Welker. “(McDaniel) 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. She wants us to believe that she was speaking for the RNC when the RNC was paying for her. So she has credibility issues that she still has to deal with.”

NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker
(NBC News)

High profile political operatives and former White House officials are frequently hired to be hosts and commentators on news outlets to get access to their insider knowledge. Jen Psaki was signed by MSNBC after she announced that she had left her post as White House communications director.

But hiring Republicans has become tricky since Trump has continued to deny the results of the 2020 election. CBS News faced criticism for tapping former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as contributors.

Todd himself was often subjected to rancorous criticism on social media whenever he had Trump defenders on “Meet the Press” as guests.

Paid contributors are compensated to appear, often exclusively, as experts or commentators and are not network employees.

A representative for NBC News had no comment on McDaniel’s hiring or Todd’s on-air criticism. Privately, executives say McDaniel was brought to NBC News because they believed the network needed more on-air voices reflective of the current Republican party. She was considered by other networks as well.

Insiders at MSNBC, which delivers a steady stream of criticism of Trump throughout its programming, were particularly concerned about McDaniel joining the news division. But the anchors and producers have editorial control over their programs and can decide themselves whether or not to book McDaniel.