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NBC offered Ronna McDaniel a better contract to appear on MSNBC

MSNBC President Rashida Jones participated in recruiting former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel earlier this month and McDaniel was offered a more lucrative contributor contract after she agreed to appear on MSNBC and not just NBC News, according to people familiar with the matter.

NBC News said on Tuesday that McDaniel — who repeatedly backed Donald Trump in raising questions about the validity of the 2020 election and helped organize a scheme involving alternate electors — would not appear on the network as a paid contributor after MSNBC’s anchors repeatedly attacked the hiring and called for the decision to be reversed.

But Jones had a one-on-one video call in early March after an executive at NBC News orchestrated the contact, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions.

McDaniel was concerned she would face particularly harsh interviews, and the liberal-leaning viewers would not respond to her positively, according to people with knowledge of her concerns. Her original preference was just to appear on NBC News, the people said, and early talks with the network had centered around NBC appearances.

In a friendly call between Jones and McDaniel, the two spoke about American politics, their young children and the need to have differing views on the airwaves, the people familiar with the matter said. McDaniel left the call heartened, people close to her said.

Top NBC News executives preferred that McDaniel agree to appear on both channels, according to the people familiar with the matter. MSNBC is a liberal-leaning sister network to NBC News.

McDaniel agreed to appear on both networks after a series of informal discussions and the improved contract, the people said.

NBC executives including Rebecca Blumenstein and Carrie Budoff Brown led the hiring process. After McDaniel and NBC executives started talking about her joining the network, they introduced McDaniel to others in the building including Jones, a practice that people close to NBC News and MSNBC said is customary during the hiring process of on-air contributors.

After McDaniel was hired and a backlash ensued, Jones privately told MSNBC anchors on Friday and Saturday that McDaniel would not appear on the network, according to people familiar with her calls last weekend. She reassured them that they have editorial independence over their respective shows, these people said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a person close to McDaniel said she still had not been notified of her termination. She did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

McDaniel is preparing to sue the network and has been in discussions with lawyers. She told others she expects to be paid for her two-year contract. She has expressed dismay to allies that she was treated shabbily by the network after they heavily recruited her, according to people who have spoken to her, particularly by executives who personally wooed her.

McDaniel’s relationship with top NBC executives began last fall, according to people familiar with what took place. NBC was determined to secure a Republican primary debate, repeatedly talking to RNC officials about their chances and even sending star anchor Lester Holt to Washington for a pitch meeting at RNC headquarters. RNC officials wanted to give at least one debate to a nonconservative news outlet in a bid to broaden the party’s outreach.

After the RNC gave NBC a debate, top RNC and NBC News officials worked closely together ahead of the November event and developed a rapport, celebrating the debate’s conclusion together and keeping in regular touch, the people familiar with the matter said.

After Trump began talking about removing McDaniel as RNC chairwoman earlier this year, she spoke with several networks about a contract but gravitated toward NBC based on her relationships with top NBC executives, these people said. There were multiple conversations and in-person meetings, including a dinner in New York City one week before she left the RNC.

Last week, the network issued a glowing statement to the New York Times calling her voice “essential” to understanding the Republican Party. Her hiring was greeted by widespread criticism of the network from liberals and media critics.

McDaniel raised questions about the validity of the results of the 2020 election, suggested there was “stealing,” helped orchestrate a scheme of alternate electors for Trump and offered the lobby of the RNC for two of Trump’s lawyers to use, where they espoused false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. McDaniel said in testimony that she believed the alternate electors were only a contingency plan.

Ironically, one of the reasons McDaniel was ousted as chair of the party is that Trump did not believe that she shared his belief on the 2020 stolen election and that she was doing enough on “election integrity,” according to advisers close to the former president.

“To be clear, we believe NBC News should seek out conservative Republican voices to provide balance in their election coverage,” co-host Mika Brzezinski said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “But it should be conservative Republicans, not a person who used her position of power to be an anti-democracy election denier.”

In recent days, Trump advisers have asked RNC employees if they believe the election was stolen, making it a litmus test of sorts for being employed at the RNC.

On Sunday, after former anchor Chuck Todd criticized McDaniel on “Meet the Press,” citing her actions after the 2020 election and accusing the RNC of “gaslighting” during her tenure, NBC News reached out to McDaniel and her team to offer apologies, a person familiar with the matter said. Executives signaled to McDaniel that they would stand by her and it would blow over.

When McDaniel wanted to issue a statement on Monday after “Morning Joe” anchors attacked her and other criticism grew, she was dissuaded by NBC from doing so, according to a person familiar with the matter. The statement would have been benign and said that she was looking forward to sharing her perspective on-air.

McDaniel learned from her agent on Monday that NBC was likely to cut ties. She expressed surprise to others that her agent represented others at NBC News, and she soon began looking for a lawyer.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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