5 high-profile political figures who made a splashy transition to the media industry

Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
  • In recent decades, there's been a very visible pipeline from politics to the media industry.

  • Some critics have pushed backed against former political figures migrating to major news networks.

  • But several key figures have successfully made the jump, becoming staples of TV news.

In recent decades, the politics-to-media pipeline has become an enduring phenomenon, with former party leaders and communications gurus using their previous gigs to become well-compensated hosts and pundits on network news programs.

But after former Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel was hired as a paid contributor for NBC News (and subsequently dropped after pushback from some of its top hosts), how entrenched is the popular transition from the political world to the media industry?

Here's a look at key figures who have successfully made the jump over the past few decades:

George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos
George Stephanopoulos, left, with Seth Meyers in December 2023.Lloyd Bishop/NBC via Getty Images

Stephanopoulos has become a household name as a result of his nearly 15-year tenure as a co-anchor on ABC's "Good Morning America."

But before Stephanopoulos became one of the biggest names at ABC News, he had a background steeped in Democratic politics, first as an aide to onetime Rep. Edward Feighan of Ohio in the 1980s before working on the unsuccessful 1988 presidential campaign of then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Stephanopoulos rose to prominence as a deputy campaign manager for Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign, later serving as White House communications director and a senior advisor in the administration.

At ABC, Stephanopoulos is not only one of the faces of the weekday morning team but he also serves as the anchor of "This Week," the network's Sunday public affairs program.

Joe Scarborough

joe scarborough capitol police rant
"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough.William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Scarborough was elected to the US House from Florida during the 1994 "Republican Revolution," when his party regained a majority in the lower chamber after 50 years of Democratic control.

While in Congress, Scarborough championed conservative policies on everything from foreign affairs to the federal budget.

He later stepped down from the House in September 2001.

In 2003, Scarborough began hosting the MSNBC program "Scarborough Country." The show ran until 2007.

Since 2007, he has hosted the MSNBC program "Morning Joe."

In March 2024, Both Scarborough and his cohost (and wife) Mika Brzezinski publicly voiced their disagreement over the McDaniel hire and stated that she would not be a guest on their program.

Jen Psaki

Jen Psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki waves goodbye after her last press briefing at the White House on May 13, 2022.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As White House press secretary from January 2021 until May 2022, Psaki was the public face of President Joe Biden's administration.

Before that, she was a White House deputy press secretary, deputy communications director and communications director under President Barack Obama — as well as a State Department spokesperson in his administration.

But in between her stint with the Obama and Biden administrations, she served as a CNN political contributor.

She now hosts the MSNBC program "Inside with Jen Psaki," which premiered in March 2023.

Nicolle Wallace

Nicolle Wallace
Nicolle Wallace in May 2023.Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Since 2017, Wallace has been an integral part of the MSNBC lineup as the host of "Deadline: White House."

Wallace previously served as the White House communications director in President George W. Bush's administration from January 2005 until July 2006 and later worked as a senior advisor for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Michael Steele

GettyImages michael steele
Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Steele, an attorney and former Maryland lieutenant governor, was one of the most prominent Black Republican officeholders during the George W. Bush era.

In 2006, Steele unsuccessfully ran for the US Senate in Maryland, winning the GOP nomination but losing the general election to now-Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.

He served as chair of the Republican National Committee from 2009 to 2011, leading the party as it picked up 63 seats in the House (and thus retook control) in the 2010 midterm elections.

In May 2011, Steele became a MSNBC political analyst.

He later backed Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Steele now hosts the MSNBC program "The Weekend," alongside commentator Alicia Menendez and former Kamala Harris chief spokesperson Symone Sanders-Townsend.

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