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MSNBC president Rashida Jones tries to distance herself from Ronna McDaniel hire, as NBC execs throw each other under the bus

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MSNBC president Rashida Jones has been on a mission to clear her name as one of the execs who courted former Republican National Committee boss Ronna McDaniel, and who lobbied the network to hire her in an ill-fated move that’s led to chaos at the network.

McDaniel was quickly dropped after MSNBC talent sparked a revolt over putting the Trump-backing politico on the air.

We’re told that on a 10a.m. call with talent on Thursday, Jones was telling staffers that reports have “overstated” her involvement in the network’s decision to hire McDaniel.

Insiders further told us it now feels like the “battle of the execs throwing each other under the bus at 30 Rock” in the wake of the McDaniel fiasco.

Sources described a frustrated Jones on the call as being “fed up.” She was “very stern,” said an insider. “It was the most firm she’s been on the situation.”

Rashida Jones
MSNBC’s president had a “stern” call with talent amid NBC’s ongoing Ronna McDaniel chaos. Getty Images

Another source, however, described her as “defensive,” and told us Jones was “talking so fast and saying it’s a bunch of lies in the media.”

Outlets from the Washington Post to Puck have reported on Jones’ involvement in McDaniel’s hiring.

“She didn’t say a lot and didn’t take questions. The only thing she said was the media’s lies are distracting from their work,” the source said.

Ronna McDaniel
McDaniel was fired as a contributor before she even started. Getty Images

Jones kicked off the call, we hear, by explaining, “I do want to take a second, just a second, to address all of the nonsense, false reporting floating around out there. I just want to make sure you guys hear from me on this directly once again,” she said.

Jones’ “stern call” came after reports that she actively participated in recruiting McDaniel.

Several NBC anchors — including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow — has been vocal about the decision to hire McDaniel, who helped push former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election denial message.

Rachel Maddow
Rachel Maddow was among those who criticized McDaniel’s hire. Getty Images for NBC

Maddow, for example, said on her Monday night broadcast, “The fact that Ms. McDaniel is on the payroll at NBC News, to me that is inexplicable!”

Chuck Todd and “Morning Joe” stars Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski also joined the chorus in bashing the network’s decision, which sparked MSNBC to eventually fire McDaniel before she could even offer a soundbite on “Meet the Press.”

We’re told Jones was sending individual texts and making phone calls to her talent in an effort to distance herself from the hire after the backlash.

Rashida Jones
Sources described Jones as “defensive” on Thursday’s call. AFP via Getty Images

Sources told us that on Thursday’s call, Jones said, “It was very clear from everyone how you felt about her role here, and I appreciate the fact that you guys came to us and we can have these kinds of open discussions.”

She added, sources said, “I made it very clear she was not expected to be on our air. Your anchors in particular heard that from me on Friday. Several of them said that on TV, I said it out loud on this call Monday. Those are the facts, anybody can check the facts. Every single primetime host heard from us directly that it was important that we MSNBC maintain editorial independence and how we covered this.”

She also told the staffers: “As you guys know, I wholeheartedly supported that, you can ask anyone involved we had a lot of conversations about it before and after.”

Carrie Budoff Brown
NBC exec Carrie Budoff Brown championed McDaniel’s hire, we hear. LinkedIn/Carrie Budoff Brown

Multiple sources told us Carrie Budoff Brown, who leads the networks’ Politics and elections coverage, and Rebecca Blumenstein, president of NBC News editorial, were the masterminds behind McDaniel’s contributor deal.

“They wanted this to happen. They’re responsible for all the chaos. They’re the ones who courted her, and did all the vetting. They were leading the charge,” said another source, who described the situation as “a big mess.”

Rebecca Blumenstein
Rebecca Blumenstein was a part of the team who hired McDaniel. NBCUniversal

“Now, they’re all throwing each other under the bus. It feels like they’re planting stories about each other. It’s a circus,” they added.

Still, Jones was looped in, we’re told. “But it was more like a, ‘heads up, here’s our new contributor’ type of thing. I’m not sure how enthusiastic she was about it,” the source said.

But, “People talking to the press, and saying Rashida had signed off is not sitting well with her. She’s not the driver at all, and she’s like ‘enough is enough,'” our first source said.

Cesar Conde
NBC Universal chairman Cesar Conde took full responsibility for the hiring snafu. Getty Images for TIME

Ultimately, NBCU Universal Chairman, Cesar Conde, took “full responsibility” for authorizing McDaniel’s hire.

In a memo he sent to staffers on Tuesday, obtained by The Post, he said, “I want to personally apologize to our team members who felt we let them down. While this was a collective recommendation by some members of our leadership team, I approved it and take full responsibility for it.”

Meanwhile, Jones encouraged her MSNBC team to be above the drama in her morning call.

Ronna McDaniel
McDaniel is a former RNC chairwoman. Getty Images

“I am incredibly proud of how we’re performing. It’s in these moments of just chaos where we have a choice. We can feed into the drama, we can let it distract us, or we can realize they only attack when we’re at the head of the pack and not let that happen,” she said.

“We have to look ahead. We have to keep an eye on everybody in the real rearview mirror. I know that has not been easy this week,” she also said on the call.

“But I think it’s important for us not to be distracted by lies and nonsense… the main reason we’re such a strong organization on every single metric and every single front is because we have a culture that doesn’t let that happen. We can’t let other people erode that,” she added.

A spokesperson for the network did not comment.

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