For nearly a week, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has defended his decision to keep NBC and CNN from holding any debates with the party’s 2016 presidential nominees by arguing that it is retribution for what he considers to be free advertising for Hillary Clinton in the form a documentary and miniseries on the former first lady and Secretary of State. But in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe crew on Thursday morning, the truth was finally laid bare: Priebus doesn’t want any actual journalists to ask his candidates serious questions.
The very premise of a debate is for candidates to answer tough questions about where they stand on key issues that matter to the constituents they will be tasked with representing. For decades, those debates have been in the form of moderated conversations amongst the candidates, distributed on news networks and overseen by objective journalists. But after suffering two presidential defeats, the Republican Party has had enough: instead, they only want people who are interested in electing Republicans to be the ones asking the questions:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But Reince, my point is that you expected an honest and fair conversation here, even though we’re a part of NBC. I mean you understand there’s a difference.
PREIBUS: Listen, but I’m not going to have you moderate the Republican debates in our primary. I mean there’s a difference.
NICOLE WALLACE: Why not?
PREIBUS: Because you’re not interested, because you’re not actually interested in the future of the Republican Party and our nominees. That’s not a slam on your Mika, but I have to choose moderators that are actually interested in the Republican Party and our nominees. I mean it’s not going to be NBC if they continue to go forward with this miniseries.
The Republican primaries have become a minefield for potential nominees, who increasingly have to veer further and further to their right in order to appease the ultra-conservatives who often outpace moderate Republicans at the polls on election day. But their televised statements during the primary debates are equally damaging during the general election with the all-important independent voters, who are increasingly at odds with the extreme rhetoric of today’s Republican party.
Preibus’ remarks reflect a reality that the Republican Party is facing: their platform has become so toxic, the only way to overcome it is to keep it out of the spotlight.