Cesar Conde is not the typical leader of a major news institution.

A Wharton-trained executive who revived the fortunes of Telemundo and sits on the boards of Pepsi and Walmart, Mr. Conde had limited experience in journalism when, in 2020, he became the chairman of NBC’s sprawling news division, including MSNBC, CNBC and franchises like “Meet the Press,” “Nightly News” and the “Today” show.

Now he is trying to navigate the biggest crisis of his tenure: a journalistic firestorm that prompted an open revolt among his stars and has fueled internal questions about just how neatly Mr. Conde’s corporate experience and ambitions gel with the unique challenges of the news business.

The rapid hiring and dismissal of Ronna McDaniel, the former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, stunned network journalists over the past week, with many asking why Mr. Conde and his deputies had brought on someone who had vilified NBC and advanced former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The blowback facing Mr. Conde, 50, a former fellow in George W. Bush’s White House who prides himself on having an even-keeled, nonpartisan reputation, is coming from both sides of the aisle. Left-leaning fans of MSNBC felt betrayed, and Republican officials are mocking NBC as biased, even threatening to bar its reporters from this summer’s nominating convention.

At elite retreats like the Aspen Ideas Festival, Mr. Conde, who declined to be interviewed, likes to say he runs “the largest news organization in the country.” As he heads into the scrutiny of a general-election campaign, he is discovering just how hard that job can be.

Two of Mr. Conde’s newsroom leaders — Rebecca Blumenstein, the NBC News president of editorial, and Carrie Budoff Brown, who oversees political coverage — recommended Ms. McDaniel to Mr. Conde; Rashida Jones, the MSNBC president, also signed off, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Conde trusted the judgment of his top journalists, the people said.

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