'A head needs to roll'

GOSSIP & RUMORS: ‘A head needs to roll’

Media executives and industry experts close to NBC said the Ronna McDaniel fiasco exposed the chaos in the upper ranks at the Peacock network — with one top honcho telling The Post that “a head needs to roll.”

The hiring and abrupt firing of the former chair of the Republican National Committee under intense pressure from NBC and MSNBC talent, led by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow, revealed the power vacuum at the network, multiple sources told The Post on Thursday.

“Someone needs to pay for the clear lack of leadership on this issue,” said one media bigwig, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity. “A head needs to roll.”

NBC brass reversed their position on hiring Ronna McDaniel earlier this week, after pushback from talent. But the stunning reversal has exposed gaps in leadership at the network, sources said. AP

“There are some serious conversations happening in Philadelphia,” the source added, referring to the headquarters of NBC-parent Comcast. “If I’m [Comcast president] Mike Cavanagh, I’d be like what the f-k!”

A possible fall guy could be NBC News Group Chairman Cesar Conde, who took “full responsibility” for signing off on the reported two-year, $600,000 deal that landed McDaniel as an on-air contributor at NBC and MSNBC last Friday.

Four days later, his tune changed after Maddow, MSBNC’s most bankable star, called the hire “inexplicable,” Todd returned to “Meet the Press” to denounce McDaniel’s “credibility issues” and Mika Brzezinski of “Morning Joe” slammed her as an “anti-democracy election denier.”

“After listening to the legitimate concerns of many of you, I have decided that Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor,” Conde wrote in a memo Tuesday.

“Our initial decision was made because of our deep commitment to presenting our audiences with a widely diverse set of viewpoints and experiences, particularly during these consequential times,” he added.

McDaniel is reportedly in talks with high-powered media lawyer Bryan Freedman and is weighing a defamation and harassment lawsuit over the harsh treatment she received from her short-time colleagues.

NBC News Group chairman Cesar Conde took responsibility for the hire but a media exec told The Post that the damage is done and that a “head should roll” for the misstep. Getty Images for TIME

The black mark that the McDaniel episode has put on Conde’s sterling resume is a “self-inflicted, hemorrhaging wound,” noted a former exec at a rival network.

“For starters, Conde needs to show up in the office to deal with the problem head-on instead of cowering in Brickell Miami,” the source said. “Most of all, he also needs to restore authority and law and order. To that end, someone needs to be accountable. It’s tricky because he wooed Ronna and approved the decision himself. It’s tricky firing anyone for a news felony that he helped commit.”

Another industry expert said the amount of direct reports to Conde and the lack of editorial leadership that oversees NBC News and MSNBC is surprising. Conde is not a news guy, nor does he attest to be, sources told The Post.

Currently, Conde lords over what sources have described as a collection of “fiefdoms.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went off on the network’s decision to hire the former RNC chair, which prompted others at the network to slam top brass and call for McDaniel’s dismissal. MSNBC/YouTube

Libby Leist oversees “Today;” Janelle Rodriguez is in charge of “NBC Nightly News” and the “NBC News Now” streaming service; Rebecca Blumenstein, who in January 2023 was named president of editorial, oversees bookings for “Meet the Press” and “Dateline;” and Rashida Jones runs MSNBC.

McDaniel’s hiring was a team effort, with Blumenstein and NBC News senior vice president of politics Carrie Budoff Brown reportedly leading the process, and Jones pushing to get the former RNC chair on MSNBC, which resulted in her getting a more lucrative contributor contract.

However, the immediate backlash inside 30 Rock over for hiring McDaniel’s pushed Jones to do a stunning about-face. Last weekend, she told furious staffers that the unabashed Donald Trump supporter wouldn’t be welcome at the left-leaning network.

After Conde sent out his memo announcing McDaniel’s dismissal, MSNBC primetime hosts Joy Reid, Chris Hayes and Alex Wagner gushed over the ouster.

“That leadership was willing to change on this, I’m grateful to them,” Maddow chimed in.

MSNBC President Rashida Jones lobbied for McDaniel to join the network, but she reversed her stance amid pushback from talent. Getty Images

“The inmates are taking over the asylum,” the rival media exec countered. “There’s no clear leader at the network, especially the way Conde set things up.”

Reps for Conde, NBCU, Comcast and NBC News declined to comment.

“Cesar still has full support and confidence of Comcast/ NBCU leadership,” a source close to NBC told The Post.

Sources criticized the fact that the company doesn’t have one leader in charge of all editorial who is responsible, with one media watcher, deadpanning: “sometimes you need one neck to ring.”

“If I were them, I’d clean house,” another source close to NBC said. “The structure that Cesar set up is clearly a failure. I would get rid of all of them and start over. They clearly can’t lead the organization.”

McDaniel’s hiring was a team effort, with Blumenstein (pictured) and NBC News senior vice president of politics Carrie Budoff Brown reportedly leading the process, according to insider. NBCUniversal

Insiders have pointed to Blumenstein or Brown as potential casualties, while others said there should just be a change in the network’s leadership structure.

Whatever the move, a big change needs to happen in the next 60 days, one source emphasized.

Another source close to the network said the buck should stop with Conde, who has been described as a “well-manicured,” “two-faced,” “teflon”-like exec.

Sources speculated that top brass at Comcast are having “serious talks” about the fallout of the embarrassing saga. Getty Images

“Cesar will have to take the entire bullet,” another source close to NBC said. “He will need to continue to keep publicly saying he was the one who made the decision and protect Rashida, Rebecca and Carrie. He will need to commit to keeping the news team appraised of upcoming hires — and he will also need to be in New York working with them. This [lack of being present] showed a big gap [in his leadership].”

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