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Ronna in No Man’s Land

Ronna McDaniel
The Ronna McDaniel saga has become a cautionary tale for other Trump allies looking for soft landings as pundits, in boardrooms, or other phone-it-in sinecures. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
April 10, 2024

The political micro-drama surrounding Ronna McDaniel’s lost weekend as an NBC News contributor already seems like a blur. It was, after all, only a few weeks after McDaniel’s resignation as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee—a job title she bequeathed to Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump—that McDaniel was snapped up by NBC News in a well-intentioned effort to prove that the network wasn’t afraid of adding a conservative voice to its roster. McDaniel’s first day was Friday, March 22. By Sunday, Chuck Todd was expressing outrage over her hiring on Meet the Press. On Monday, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski picked up the baton, calling McDaniel an “anti-democracy election denier.” That night, Rachel Maddow finished the job, comparing McDaniel to “a wise guy, a made man, like a mobster.” By Tuesday, McDaniel and NBC had “parted ways.”

In retrospect, the McDaniel saga has become a cautionary tale for other Trump allies looking for soft landings as pundits, in boardrooms, or other phone-it-in sinecures. Ordinarily, someone of McDaniel’s stature would have been weighing an enviable slate of options: private sector jobs that leverage access in exchange for heaps of money, such as Jay Carney’s post-Obama positions at Amazon and Airbnb, or Reince Priebus’s borderline appalling $8 million-per-year golden cuffs at a Wisconsin law firm; or an equally high-powered position inside the conservative industrial complex, from managing a super PAC to joining a strategy firm. McDaniel, who was offered a modest $300,000 per year to be a talking head for the NBC News Group, presumably anticipated her green room journey to be a first step back toward mainstream respectability.