Chuck Todd Questions His Network, NBC News, Over Hiring of Former R.N.C. Chair

The veteran NBC anchor Chuck Todd publicly attacked the leadership of his own network on Sunday, questioning why NBC News hired Ronna McDaniel, the former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and declaring live on air, “There’s a reason why there are a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this.”

Mr. Todd’s comments on “Meet the Press,” the flagship political show he anchored for nine years, were an extraordinary escalation of behind-the-scenes tensions simmering within NBC News and its cable cousin, MSNBC, since the announcement on Friday that Ms. McDaniel had been brought onboard as a political analyst.

Some journalists at NBC were taken aback by the decision to hire Ms. McDaniel, citing her tenure at the R.N.C. under President Donald J. Trump, when she regularly echoed Mr. Trump’s criticisms of the news media and, in particular, the left-leaning programs on MSNBC.

Rashida Jones, the MSNBC president, called several prominent anchors over the weekend to assure them they would not be forced to book Ms. McDaniel on their shows, according to a person briefed on the conversations who requested anonymity to share details meant to be private.

Ms. McDaniel made her NBC debut on “Meet the Press” on Sunday in an appearance that the current host, Kristen Welker, told viewers had been scheduled weeks before Ms. McDaniel joined as a paid contributor. “This will be a news interview, and I was not involved in her hiring,” Ms. Welker said.

After the interview aired, Ms. Welker was joined on the set for a live discussion panel that included Mr. Todd, who began his remarks by saying, “Let me deal with the elephant in the room.”

“I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation,” Mr. Todd said. “Because I don’t know what to believe. She is now a paid contributor by NBC News, so I have no idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn’t want to mess up her contract.”

Mr. Todd said that Ms. McDaniel “has credibility issues” and went on, “There’s a reason why there are a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this, because many of our professional dealings with the R.N.C. over the last six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination.”

He added: “So when NBC made the decision to give her NBC News’s credibility, you got to ask yourself, ‘What does she bring NBC News?’”

Reached by telephone on Sunday, Ms. McDaniel declined to comment.

The path from Washington politics to an on-air analyst role is well-worn. Ms. McDaniel is only the latest leading Republican to sign a deal with a network; Reince Priebus, for instance, who served as Mr. Trump’s first chief of staff, is now a contributor to ABC News.

Television news divisions are also eager to ensure their campaign coverage carries a variety of ideological voices, and not only pundits who lean to the political left. Leaders at NBC News, which unlike MSNBC does not air opinion programming, emphasized this point in their memo on Friday announcing Ms. McDaniel’s new role.

“It couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team,” wrote Carrie Budoff Brown, who oversees NBC News political coverage. “She will support our leading coverage by providing an insider’s perspective on national politics and on the future of the Republican Party.” NBC News already employs Republican commentators like Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence.

In her interview on Sunday with Ms. McDaniel, Ms. Welker pressed the former Republican leader on whether she believed that President Biden had legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.

“Fair and square, he won,” Ms. McDaniel said. “It’s certified. It’s done.”

“Ronna, why has it taken you until now to be able to say that?” Ms. Welker asked.

“I’m going to push back a little because I do think it’s fair to say there were problems in 2020 and to say that does not mean he’s not the legitimate president,” Ms. McDaniel replied.

Symone D. Sanders, a former chief spokeswoman for Vice President Kamala Harris who is now an anchor on MSNBC, later praised Ms. Welker’s handling of the interview, writing on X, “She got her on the record on a lot.”

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