- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2023

In January, it was reported the Republican National Committee asked several major TV networks — including left-wing partisans NBC and CNN — to consider sponsoring the GOP primary debates. Has the RNC learned nothing in the years succeeding its disastrous 2016 cycle?
In 2015, the RNC had to cut ties with NBC after it hosted the third Republican presidential debate, where the moderators at its business network CNBC treated the GOP candidates in a biased and disrespectful manner. At the time, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus accused CNBC of engaging “in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.”

CNBC moderator John Harwood addressed Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it as “a comic book version of a presidential campaign.”

Carl Quintanilla told Florida Sen. Marco Rubio he sponsored an immigration bill that “conservatives in your party hate and even you don’t support anymore,” and added, “Now you’re skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first, and at least finish what you start?”

And confronting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Mr. Harwood commented, “The fact that you’re at the fifth lectern tonight shows how far your stock has fallen.”

Mr. Harwood continued: “Ben Bernanke said he no longer considers himself a Republican because the Republican Party has given into know-nothingism. Is that why you’re having a difficult time in this race?”

What makes the RNC believe the mainstream media has become more politically neutral since then?

Was it the five-year Russia hoax being broadcast 24/7 on their networks during the entirety of Mr. Trump’s presidency? Or perhaps their ongoing drumbeat of the Jan. 6 “insurrection” and the fraudulent Jan. 6th Committee. Still, it might have been their complete blackout of Hunter Biden’s laptop and foreign business entanglements during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Democrats don’t play this game.

In 2019, Democratic officials refused to grant one of their primary debates to Fox News, feeling their candidates wouldn’t get a fair shake from the right-leaning network. With the growing number of conservative media and platforms, the RNC shouldn’t feel compelled to work with so-called mainstream networks that have a clear animus against the Republican Party.

There are multitude of conservative media to choose from, like The Washington Times. There are also Newsmax, Fox News, Salem Media Group, Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze,” and Sinclair, to name a few others. All have the ability to stream nationally to reach the greatest audience possible. All understand conservative values and interests. All will put the candidates front and center instead of asking unprincipled questions designed to trip up the field moving into the general election.

Then there’s the monetary aspect. Why would the RNC want to reward left-leaning networks with big ratings and, therefore, big revenue while ignoring conservative media?

The primary debates in 2015 and 2016 broke viewership records. According to reporting from The New York Times, CNN hosted more than a dozen primary debates and candidate forums in the 2016 cycle, making up to $2 million in profit from the individual events. Should this network — which already declared GOP contender Nikki Haley “past her prime” — really be rewarded by the RNC?

The RNC’s response, predictably, will be it wants the most eyeballs on their primaries and that GOP candidates should be prepared to answer hard-hitting questions from an unfriendly media if they want to win the general election.

Perhaps, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who won his reelection handily, did so without engaging in interviews with partisan outlets. His team recently boycotted NBC after its “mainstream” reporter Andrea Mitchell spread misinformation about his education reforms. What makes the RNC think Mr. DeSantis will want to engage with the network — which repeatedly slanders his actions in its news programming — on the Republican debate stage?
And then you have Donald Trump. He’s the GOP front-runner — and the mainstream news outlets seem hellbent on not covering his 2024 campaign. They’re actively denying him the oxygen they believe helped ignite his 2016 victory. 

There’s no doubt Mr. Trump will be sensitive in picking and choosing which debates he participates in. He boycotted a Fox News debate in 2016 after accusing moderator Megyn Kelly of bias. 
Moderators, issues, topics and venues matter in the GOP primary cycle. The RNC should want to highlight its candidates in the best manner possible and work with them and conservative media to make it happen.
The first GOP debate of 2024 will be held in August in Milwaukee. The RNC is said to be considering 10 to 12 more between then and its national convention in the summer of 2024. It’s also deciding which media outlets will conduct them.
Let’s hope the RNC chooses wisely and doesn’t repeat its mistakes.  

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