COLUMNIST

NBC News and the folly of the Ronna McDaniel failure

The welcome announcement arrived at dinnertime, and it was good for digestion.

Top NBC executive Cesar Conde ate crow: "Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor...I approved (the hire) and I take full responsibility for it."

Then he tried to explain: "Our initial decision was made because of our deep commitment to presenting our audience with a widely diverse set of viewpoints and experiences."

That's precisely where they stepped in it with both feet. McDaniel, who worked closely with the criminal defendant to overturn a democratic election and obstruct the peaceful transfer of power, offers a "viewpoint" that is frankly fascist, that is far more Russian than American, that is the antithesis of every hallowed value this country stands for – and thus deserves nary a red cent from any respectable network's treasury.

More broadly, Ronna has rebooted questions that have plagued the mainstream media ever since the MAGA virus took root: How do you cover a party that has degenerated into a cult? Is it possible (memo: it isn't) to present "both sides" with traditional journalistic "balance" when the leader and fellow travelers of one party lie as they breathe and openly conspire to sabotage our democratic institutions?

I'll tell you a little story. In the spring of 2018, during my time as a columnist under contract at WHYY News (Philadelphia's public media outlet), it became clear to me that the station's overlords were discomfited by my relentless focus on Trump's serial misdeeds. (I called him "a clear and present danger" to the nation.) They asked if I could recommend a conservative columnist who might be willing to "balance" me and defend Trump.

I told them there was a big problem: No conservative pundit with an ounce of integrity and a respect for facts was willing any longer to defend Trump. Also, by definition, any pundit still willing to defend Trump was untethered to factual reality and likely had a screw loose.

The problem then is the problem now. Alas, Ronna McDaniels' defenders don't understand that.

For instance, GOP pollster Frank Luntz tweeted that McDaniel has a "perspective we all would benefit from. Instead of trying to silence her, we should be listening intently for all we can learn. I listen to people I disagree with all the time."

So working to overthrow a democratic election is just another "perspective"? We're supposed to normalize that?

Greta Van Susteren, the Newsmax host, tweets that mainstream broadcasters should not "disrespect" McDaniel because to do so "is not journalism," it's "Russia TV." Those last few words are Orwellian topsy-turvy.

Over on Fox, Jeanine Pirro, said: "The liberal media can't stand the idea of having a different point of view on their air." Abetting a violent coup is just a "different" view, like maybe tax cuts versus tax hikes.

Some of McDaniels' defenders have pointed out that ex-insiders have long migrated to the media, so what's the big deal. Granted, that is one of Washington's revolving-door traditions. The list of ex-Republican insiders who've made the big leap includes William Safire, Pat Buchanan, David Gergen, Bill Kristol, Michael Steele, Nicolle Wallace, Joe Scarborough, David Jolly, Brendan Buck, and many more. But – how hard is this to understand? – none of them have ever worked to destroy democracy from within.

That's the obvious line McDaniel crossed – yet it's still not clear that the NBC bigwigs get it. Conde's announcement implied that the MAGA hack would be a paid pundit in good standing if not for the fact that the entire newsroom rebelled on the air.

"We must have diverse viewpoints on our programs, and to that end, we will redouble our efforts to seek voices that represent different parts of the political spectrum," Conde wrote. Not a word about whether all coup conspirators and abetters of fascism will be persona non grata.

Apparently the quest for a truth-telling MAGAt with a credible "viewpoint" will continue. Good luck with that.

– Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at [email protected]

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