RNC Votes to Skip NBC, CNN Debates

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 16 2013 12:12 PM

Republicans Just Made Their Debate-Boycott Threat Over Those Hillary Films Official

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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the National Press Club March 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. During his remarks on a recent 'autopsy' held by the RNC on its shortcomings in the 2012 presidential campaign, Priebus announced a series of recommendations including fewer presidential debates, an earlier national convention, and community outreach programs in addition to other new initiatives.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Republican National Committee on Friday unanimously passed a resolution barring NBC and CNN from hosting 2016 primary debates if they proceed with plans to air Hillary Clinton-themed projects. "We’re done putting up with this nonsense," RNC chairman Reince Priebus told a cheering crowd of Republicans in Boston, according to Politico. "CNN and NBC will just have to watch on their competitors' network."

The vote doesn't actually change all that much, though, other than to cement the threat Priebus made earlier this month when he sent letters to the two networks warning them that they'd have to to choose between proceeding with their event-programming plans and hosting future GOP presidential primary debates. If either network were to drop their plans, the RNC would be free to partner with them for a 2016 primary debate. (As my colleague Dave Weigel points out, it's also unclear exactly how easily the RNC will be able to enforce the boycott and prevent its candidates from participating in a CNN or NBC debate if one were to be organized.)

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Of course, squashing the NBC miniseries and CNN documentary may not be the RNC's actual motivation here. Party officials had previously suggested they want to trim the number of primary debates in 2016—there were 20 or so during the 2012 campaign—to protect their front-runners from taking the type of beating from insurgent candidates that Mitt Romney did last year. Eliminating NBC and CNN from the pool of possible hosts represents something of a twofer for party officials by provides an easy way to indirectly do that, while at the same time scoring a few free political points with the GOP's anti-Hillary and anti-MSM base.

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This post has been updated.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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