NBC’s Ronna McDaniel meltdown: Falsehoods and debunked narratives MSNBC promoted on its ‘sacred airwaves’

A mob at MSNBC got its wishes this week and helped ensure new colleague Ronna McDaniel would be ousted from the network. NBC announced just days ago that the former RNC chair would be joining as a political analyst, but within four days, McDaniel was sent packing after an on-air outcry. 

In the various diatribes against McDaniel, she was characterized as dishonest and labeled an “election denier” over her actions on behalf of former President Trump over his claims of a rigged 2020 race, as well as her own remarks that it was unfair.

One MSNBC host suggested McDaniel wasn’t worthy of the network’s “sacred airwaves.”


Former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel had an icy reception in her debut as an NBC political analyst on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” She was cut loose four days later. (Screenshot/NBC)

“NBC News, either wittingly or unwittingly, is teaching election deniers that what they can do stretches well beyond appearing on our air and interviews to peddle lies about the sanctity and integrity of our elections, which Ronna McDaniel did on yesterday’s ‘Meet the Press’… and they can do that as one of us, as badge-carrying employees of NBC News, as paid contributors to our sacred airwaves,” Nicolle Wallace said on Monday’s “Deadline: White House.”

Except prominent MSNBC figures have repeatedly committed the exact sin they persecuted McDaniel for over, and over, and over again. 

Below are some of MSNBC’s most memorable falsehoods that have appeared on its “sacred airwaves.” 

The Russia collusion hoax

Much of the Trump presidency was plagued by the Russia collusion narrative that ultimately withered on the vine. Stemming from allegations peddled behind the scenes by the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, the narrative that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to win the election snowballed into a years-long investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose report concluded there was no evidence of a conspiracy. 

But for more than two years, MSNBC became the go-to network for the anti-Trump Resistance to gobble up the Trump-Russia narrative. And no one at the network personified the media’s Russia obsession more than its biggest star, Rachel Maddow. 

“What’s getting to be, I think, particularly unsettling, is that simultaneously, we are… number one, nailing down more direct connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government at the time the Russian government was influencing our election,” Maddow said back in March 2017. “Number two, at the same time, we are also starting to see what may be signs of continuing influence in our country. Not just during the campaign but during the administration. Basically, signs of what could be a continuing operation.”

As The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple previously reported, Maddow heavily legitimized the widely discredited Christopher Steele dossier, which was at the center of the Mueller probe and contained the most salacious allegations tying then-President Trump and his orbit to Russia.

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow became the face of the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Russia probe that plagued much of the Trump presidency. (Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

“The Republican[s] claim today was that the dossier has been increasingly discredited. That’s not true in terms of the public record about the dossier. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As time goes on, more and more pieces do get independently corroborated,” Maddow said in May 2017. 

Maddow was hardly the only MSNBC host to boost the dossier, with others such as Nicolle Wallace and Chris Hayes also touting it or at least claiming it was not “disproven.”

“The dossier on its face is still considered an unverified document compiled by British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele based on raw Intelligence. To date, none of it has been disproven, and whole big parts of it are holding up,” Wallace said in 2018.


The Hunter Biden laptop is ‘Russian disinformation’

Like the vast majority of legacy news organizations, MSNBC was quick to dismiss the bombshell revelations of Hunter Biden’s laptop during the 2020 election as “Russian disinformation.” 

“Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough declared the story “false” and later claimed it was “so obviously” Russian disinformation, asking, “Why are we spreading the lies here?”

Co-host Mika Brzezinski cited multiple reports about intelligence agencies investigating Rudy Giuliani’s dealings with “alleged Russian agents,” as well as whether emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop are “linked to a foreign intel operation.”

Nicolle Wallace was more confident in dismissing Hunter Biden’s laptop, telling viewers, “We shouldn’t look at it as anything other than a Russian disinformation operation.” MSNBC anchor Katy Tur mocked the Post’s story, saying it “dropped like a bomb,” but to “wither under scrutiny, not really dropping like a bomb.”

The New York Times and The Washington Post both verified Hunter Biden's laptop after dismissing the New York Post's bombshell reporting during the 2020 presidential election.

Several MSNBC hosts were quick to reject the New York Post’s bombshell reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop during the 2020 presidential election, pushing the falsehood that it was Russian disinformation. (Getty images  |  New York Post)

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle attacked those who were covering the Hunter Biden controversy, referring to it as a “so-called story” with “unverified claims.”

Notably, two MSNBC contributors, former CIA Director John Brennan and former CIA and Defense chief of staff Jeremy Bash, signed the infamous open letter from former intel officials pushing the Russian disinformation narrative, which was later promoted by a pre-MSNBC Jen Psaki on social media.

It wasn’t until May 2022 that NBC News verified the authenticity of the laptop.

Jussie Smollett’s ‘hate crime’ hoax

MSNBC jumped on the bandwagon in automatically believing disgraced actor Jussie Smollett, who staged his own hate crime in the dead of night during Chicago’s historic polar vortex in January 2019. He alleged that two Trump supporters donning red Make America Great Again hats assaulted him and hurled racist and homophobic slurs at the “Empire” star shouting “This is MAGA country!” 

It was later revealed that he had hired two Nigerian brothers to orchestrate the attack. Smollett was convicted of disorderly conduct in 2021. 

But when Smollett first came forward with the hoax, an emotional Ruhle called it a “horrible story.”

“It gets worse,” Ruhle told viewers at the time. “One of the offenders wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck.”

NBC News correspondent Steve Patterson appeared on MSNBC, calling the not-real crimes committed against Smollett w”just as heinous as you might imagine.”


Jussie Smollett's mugshot

Disgraced “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett immediately earned the sympathy of MSNBC personalities despite the reality that he had orchestrated his own hate crime. (Photo by Chicago Police Department via Getty Images)

The smearing of Covington teen Nicholas Sandmann 

Another hoax from 2019 involved the smear campaign leveled at a group of students from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School who had visited Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life.

A video had gone viral showing one “MAGA” hat-wearing student, Nicholas Sandmann, smiling at Native American elder Nathan Phillips beating a drum and singing a chant as he was surrounded by Sandmann’s peers, who all had joined in on the chant in front of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

However, several media outlets, including NBC, portrayed the incident with Sandmann and the other teens as being racially charged before it was discovered by additional footage that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites had provoked the confrontation by slinging racial slurs at the students as they were waiting for their bus. Footage then showed Phillips, who was in town for the Indigenous Peoples March, approaching the students amid the rising tension between the two groups.


Nicholas Sandmann

NBC settled a defamation lawsuit against former Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, who was at the center of a viral controversy in 2019.  (AP)

On the weekend edition of “NBC Nightly News,” NBC News’ José Díaz-Balart called it a “troubling scene many are calling racist.”

Some students harassing an older Native American, of yet a Vietnam vet in the midst of a special ceremony,” Díaz-Balart told viewers. Later in the report, NBC News correspondent Tammy Leitner said “Tonight some wondering how this peaceful rally became a sad display of disrespect.”

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie was accused of “interrogating” Sandmann in an interview, asking him if he owed “anyone an apology” and whether he had any “fault” and following with other questions insinuating he was the aggressor. Meanwhile, Guthrie allowed Phillips to repeatedly attack Sandmann in a separate interview. 

On MSNBC, fill-in anchor Peter Alexander said “there certainly was taunting by some young men… to a Native American.” Other anchors like Craig Melvin and Hallie Jackson similarly said the video showed the teens “appearing to taunt” Phillips. 

Sandmann filed a whopping $275 million defamation suit against NBC. The network made a settlement in 2021. 

Relentless attacks against Kyle Rittenhouse

During the 2020 unrest in Kenosha, Wis., following the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two people and injured a third person while acting in self-defense. He was later found not guilty following a dramatic trial that received national attention.

But despite what a jury concluded, MSNBC found him guilty right from the beginning. 

MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson compared Rittenhouse to a “school shooter.”

“He’s a 17-year-old kid! He shouldn’t have had a gun. He crossed state lines to supposedly protect property? No. He was going out to shoot people,” Johnson exclaimed. “Kyle Rittenhouse is the enemy!”



MSNBC stars compared Kyle Rittenhouse to a “school shooter” and a “domestic terrorist” before he was found not guilty of the charges filed against him. (Sean Krajacic/Pool via REUTERS)

Fellow contributor John Heilemann said Rittenhouse was “arguably a domestic terrorist,” claiming he crossed state lines “with the intent to shoot people.”

Several MSNBC hosts including Reid, Wallace and O’Donnell referred to Rittenhouse as a “vigilante.” 

The so-called ‘whipping’ of Haitian migrants at the border

One of the biggest controversies of 2021 was the false narrative that Border Patrol agents were “whipping” Haitian migrants at the southern border. 

Images had gone viral of horseback border agents in Del Rio, Texas, showing them using what critics had thought were “whips” to attack Haitians attempting to enter the U.S. when in reality law enforcement was only equipped with reins to control their horses.

While the false narrative was even accepted early on by the Biden administration, several MSNBC personalities also took turns magnifying it, including “All In” host Chris Hayes, who shared the images peddling the “whip” claims online. 


On MSNBC, NBC News correspondent Yamiche Alcindor accused the border agents of “using reins against migrants, citing critics of the Biden administration who say it “looks like slavery” and call the treatment “cruel” and “inhumane.”

Chuck Todd, who at the time was hosting “MTP Daily,” said border agents were “using some kind of whips around migrants at the border.”

But the biggest promoter of the narrative was Joy Reid. 

Joy Reid

MSNBC’s Joy Reid was one of the biggest promoters of the false narrative about border agents using “whips” on Haitian migrants. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images   |  Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

“This is beyond repulsive. Are these images from 2021 or 1851??” Reid posted online in reaction to the images.

She also peddled the lie on her show, saying on-air “I was not aware that whips, which come from the slave era- slavery era were part of package that we issue any sort of law enforcement.” 

Notably, then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki advanced the falsehood at the press briefing, calling the images “obviously horrific.”

“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it’s acceptable or appropriate,” Psaki told reporters at the time.

Joy Reid’s ‘hacked’ blog 

Perhaps the strangest story that made it to MSNBC’s “sacred airwaves” was one that came from inside the house. 

In 2017, it was unearthed that Joy Reid had written a series of homophobic blog posts from 2007-2009, years before she became an MSNBC darling. 

Initially, Reid took ownership of her past rhetoric and issued an apology, saying “At no time have I intentionally sought to demean or harm the LGBT community, which includes people whom I deeply love…. Re-reading those old blog posts, I am disappointed in myself. I apologize to those who also are disappointed in me. Life can be humbling. It often is. But I hope that you know where my heart is, and that I will always strive to use my words for good. I know better and I will do better.”

Months later, after more offensive content from the old blog had surfaced, Reid alleged that the material published was actually “fabricated.”


Joy Reid apologizes

MSNBC host Joy Reid issued an on-air apology in 2018 for her past homophobic rhetoric after claiming her old blog where offensive content was unearthed had been “hacked.” (Screenshot/MSNBC)

“In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology,” Reid had said in a statement. “I began working with a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity, and we notified federal law enforcement officials of the breach. The manipulated material seems to be part of an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago.”

“Now that the site has been compromised I can state unequivocally that it does not represent the original entries. I hope that whoever corrupted the site recognizes the pain they have caused, not just to me, but to my family and communities that I care deeply about: LGBTQ, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups,” Reid added. 


At the time, NBC quietly circulated a memo from Reid’s “security expert” who concluded the blog “was breached after a review of suspicious activity” without providing evidence. Meanwhile, the Internet archiving website The Wayback Machine which had preserved Reid’s old blog posts said it found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions.

Reid doubled down on her blatant falsehood during an on-air address on her MSNBC show while still issuing an apology to the LGBTQ community.

“I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me,” Reid told viewers in April 2018. “But I can definitely understand based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past why some people don’t believe me. I have not been exempt from being dumb or cruel or hurtful to the very people I want to advocate for. I own that. I get it. And for that, I’m truly, truly sorry.”

Reid was never reprimanded and is now one of the faces of the network’s political coverage.


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