Seeking Balance, Tripping Up

The news that NBC had hired and then abruptly cut ties with the former Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel this week may feel like a flashback for TV insiders and viewers.

Once again, a major news network is on the defensive over an attempt to balance out its ranks of talking heads — a mainstay of the genre — with a pro-Trump surrogate whose qualifications for the role appeared to run counter to the basic tenets of journalism.

McDaniel, after all, had been a prominent exponent of the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. As my colleague Alexandra Berzon and I reported yesterday, McDaniel was also at times involved in Trump’s attempts to stave off the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

While the crackup may seem as if it was inevitable in retrospect, it was also reflective of a hallmark of the Trump era: After two impeachments, a Capitol riot and numerous criminal indictments, the question of how to cover Trump is no closer to being solved.

In case you are also afflicted with the collective amnesia afflicting so many Americans, let’s rewind to 2016, not too many months after Trump descended his shiny escalator to announce his presidential run. CNN took similar heat when it hired pro-Trump figures like his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and the say-anything Trump defender Jeffrey Lord.

“I think it’s really important to have voices on CNN who are supportive of the Republican nominee,” Jeff Zucker, then the CNN president,

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