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Republicans Vote to Boycott 2016 NBC and CNN Primary Debates

At their annual meeting, the Republican National Committee has made good on something they have been promising for a while. Via Fox News:

The Republican National Committee has voted to boycott any presidential primary debates planned by CNN and NBC if they proceed with lengthy television features on Hillary Clinton, widely expected to be a 2016 Democratic candidate.

With no audible dissent, GOP officials approved a resolution backing the position at their annual summer meeting in Boston on Friday.

The RNC claims that a Clinton-themed documentary and a separate miniseries — in the works from CNN and NBC, respectively — will put a “thumb on the scales” in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

The draft resolution, obtained by Fox News in advance and later voted on by RNC officials, calls on CNN and NBC to cancel what it describes as “political ads masked as unbiased entertainment.”

And if they don’t, the resolution states, “the Republican National Committee will neither partner with these networks in the 2016 presidential primary debates nor sanction any primary debates they sponsor.”

In the past, this sort of move would be unheard of. Of course, a lot in the media landscape has changed — even since the last election cycle. The ability for politicians to bypass traditional news organizations in order to get their message across has fundamentally disrupted the relationship between parties and the networks.

This is a smart symbolic move for the Republicans. It allows them to appear tough on the media while accomplishing a key strategic goal. We already knew that the party was desperately looking for ways to significantly cut the number of primary debates. In the 2012 cycle there were a total of twenty Republican Primary debates. Seven of the twenty were sponsored by CNN. Two were sponsored by NBC. So simply by cutting these two networks, the Republicans could cut their debate schedule in half.

Most likely the party plans to partner with Fox News for most of the debates that will air, ensuring that their candidates messages get out their target audience.

It remains to be seen if MSNBC, which sponsored two debates, or CNBC, which sponsored a single debate in 2012, are included in this ban.

The boycott no effect on the general election. The parties only control the primary debates. The Presidential debates are overseen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and, just like in past years, will most likely be simultaneously broadcast on all the major networks, including CBS and CNN.

[Update 8.18.2013 @ 10.33pm est] – Regular commenter Jenos Idanian #13 reminds us that there is some precedent for this. During the 2008 Democratic Primary all the major candidates boycotted a proposed debate to be hosted by Fox News.

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About Matt Bernius
Matthew is a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at Cornell University, researching the intersection of technology and culture. Prior to Cornell, he earned a Masters in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and was a visiting professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Matt started his career at Eastman Kodak, spending eight years in a variety of web development, community and content strategy roles. In his spare time (off OTB) Matt slogs (slow-blogs) on the future of reading/media, studies martial arts and self defense, and volunteers, along with his wife, at the Rochester Animal Shelter. Follow him on twitter @mattbernius.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    I think this is more of a feature than a bug… If the GOP restricts its own debates to nothing other than steno services like Fox, then nobody except the die-hard wingnut vote will ever watch them. They won’t even have to pretend to be human, since the entire audience will be nothing but the meat-eating, chest-thumping, dick-waving, neanderthal “base”.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 10

  2. michael reynolds says:

    If they had any balls the rest of the networks would refuse to broadcast GOP campaign events including debates until this idiocy is revoked.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 11

  3. al-Ameda says:

    The Republican National Committee has voted to boycott any presidential primary debates planned by CNN and NBC if they proceed with lengthy television features on Hillary Clinton, widely expected to be a 2016 Democratic candidate.

    With no audible dissent, GOP officials approved a resolution backing the position at their annual summer meeting in Boston on Friday.

    The Republican Party continues their efforts to rebrand themselves, based entirely on Soviet-style management of their image and message. And they did it with a good old fashioned Soviet-style “no audible dissent” too.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  4. The draft resolution, obtained by Fox News in advance and later voted on by RNC officials, calls on CNN and NBC to cancel what it describes as “political ads masked as unbiased entertainment.”

    My Lord, the amount of cognitive dissonance required to write (both by the RNC and the Fox News writer) surely opened a micro black hole somewhere.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  5. Matt Bernius says:

    @michael reynolds:
    What’s interesting to note is that in 2012, ABC only carried a single debate and CBS carried none.

    Given that the debates tend to be ratings poison to begin with, I’m not sure that the powers that be at NBC or CNN are necessarily weeping over this news. If anything they may find it a bit of a relief.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    @legion: I watched them last time for the entertainment value. Much better than reality shows.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. al-Ameda says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Given that the debates tend to be ratings poison to begin with, I’m not sure that the powers that be at NBC or CNN are necessarily weeping over this news. If anything they may find it a bit of a relief.

    You’re right about the ratings. I am honestly convinced that the reason many people tune in is the “NASCAR Effect” – that is, people are hoping to see crashes. Last year Rick Perry provided some memorable crashes. I’m a politics junkie so I actually plan to watch this stuff, and it seems to me that the crashes are the primary reasons that cause people to change their mind about a candidate. It does serve a public purpose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. Moosebreath says:

    “Most likely the party plans to partner with Fox News for most of the debates that will air, ensuring that their candidates messages get out their target audience.”

    That presumes the target audience is the base, and not undecided voters who could be persuaded to support the candidate (which goes back to other debates as to whether the Republicans need to swing to the right or left).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Hah! You may be right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. Andrew E. says:

    I’m going to be in the minority but I do think it’s inappropriate for NBC to produce a movie about Hilary Clinton, especially as it’s very likely she’ll run for President. If Fox were to produce ‘Jeb: Third Time’s the Charm’ or ‘Rand Paul: No Way He’s as Crazy as his Father’ Democrats would be rightly be upset and it also it solidifies the image of NBC as explicitly partisan network. If anything’s at work beyond ratings I think it’s a bad move. NBC should stick to making more Community and Parks and Rec.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Andrew E.:

    I’m going to be in the minority but I do think it’s inappropriate for NBC to produce a movie about Hilary Clinton, especially as it’s very likely she’ll run for President.

    It’s very simple for me:
    (1) If NBC casts Charlize Theron as Hillary, then I’m voting for Hillary.
    (2) If NBS casts Lindsay Lohan as Hillary, then I’m an Independent.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  12. Scott says:

    Seems to that CNN and NBC could not invite any Republicans on their Sunday talk shows. They could suck the oxygen right out of the lungs. We would see who needs whom more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  13. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The “networks” can’t do that. Although it would be a good reason for them to abandon their broadcast form and just go cable.

    Of course, there are powerful local affiliates in every Congressional district who would oppose the move.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  14. Matt Bernius says:

    @JKB:

    The “networks” can’t do that. Although it would be a good reason for them to abandon their broadcast form and just go cable.

    Care to expand on this comment? Are you arguing that the FCC would prevent that because of collusion? I don’t think it falls under the “public good” clause either (which already has been largely gutted).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  15. Just Me says:

    @Moosebreath:

    It’s the primaries so the target audience is the base.

    I would like to see fewer debates for the primaries and the general elections and in a format that is more give and take between the candidates with no questions from the moderator-the moderators some job would be to keep time and enforce it.

    Not going to happen though-neither party has the balls to let their candidates go toe to toe with each other.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  16. Matt Bernius says:

    @Andrew E.:

    NBC should stick to making more Community and Parks and Rec.

    On this we can agree.

    I do think it’s inappropriate for NBC to produce a movie about Hilary Clinton, especially as it’s very likely she’ll run for President.

    I think its a bit tacky. But, given that the film is going to air well prior to Clinton announcing her candidacy, all it really does is provide Republicans/Conservatives with a talking point (which I’m sure NBC is counting on to help drive ratings). Ultimately its a cynical move.

    As for CNN the political bio/documentary has been a staple of Cable News for years. During the 2012 cycle, all of the major cable news networks — including Fox — ran documentaries on the two major candidate. So feigning outrage here requires one to ignore recent history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  17. @JKB: HOW DARE YOU OPPOSE A CORPORATION’S RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH?!?!?! CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE DON’T YOU KNOW!!!1!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  18. Matt Bernius says:

    @Just Me:

    It’s the primaries so the target audience is the base.

    THIS!

    @al-Ameda:
    Diane Lane was cast as Clinton. Discuss.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    In 2007, CNN hosted a debate with YouTube for “undecided Republicans.” Almost one quarter (8 of 34) of the questions were from Democratic plants — including a top Hillary advisor that CNN flew in to ask a followup question.

    Martha Raddatz was the third debater in the Biden/Ryan debate, helping Joey Plugs not make a complete and total ass of himself.

    And in 2012, Candy Crowley actually “corrected” Romney on one point in his debate with Obama where Romney was right, and Obama and Crowley were wrong.

    There’s thrww examples off the top of my head why CNN should be excluded.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 20

  20. Andre Kenji says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Given that the debates tend to be ratings poison to begin with, I’m not sure that the powers that be at NBC or CNN are necessarily weeping over this news.

    No, they are not ratings poison. ABC managed 7,6 million viewers on a saturday night with their Republican Debate. They also provide good ratings for cable. On the other hand, in Democracies, politicians do not interfere with the decisions of TV networks: both CNN and NBC would look weak if they ceded to Priebus.

    By the way, in the case of NBC, we are talking about broadcast TV. Most dramas on broadcast TV are cancelled after some few episodes, and I doubt that a Hillary Clinton miniseries would last until the end. Now, Priebus provided NBC with free publicity. The same with CNN.

    Priebus could have waited for the miniseries to be broadcast, and then attack it. Or even convince NBC to do a miniseries with a Republican politician. He is only giving free publicity to CNN and NBC.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Moosebreath says:

    @Just Me:

    “It’s the primaries so the target audience is the base.”

    Maybe, although I’ve seen some analysis that the 2008 Democratic debates brought in many undecided voters to the Democratic ticket for the general election (especially in late-primary states where Democrats rarely brought their message, such as North Carolina and Indiana).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I’m prepared to vote for any candidate played by Diane Lane.

    John Goodman for Chris Christie?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  23. michael reynolds says:

    And of course, reprising the role of Mitt Romney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    @al-Ameda:
    Diane Lane was cast as Clinton. Discuss.

    Oh, I didn’t know that – very nice, I’ll vote for Hillary.

    They could cast Emily Blunt, Rachel Weisz, Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall or Franka Potente as Hillary and I would not object.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m prepared to vote for any candidate played by Diane Lane.
    John Goodman for Chris Christie?

    I’m with you on Diane Lane, however let’s leave Chris Christie out of this, and cast Claire Danes as Hillary’s chief of staff (or whatever).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  26. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Martha Raddatz was the third debater in the Biden/Ryan debate, helping Joey Plugs not make a complete and total ass of himself.

    “Joey Plugs”? Stay classy my friend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  27. bill says:

    @michael reynolds: msm has no balls, it’s all about ratings. and the gop should avoid any network that’s essentially making a potential presidential candidate their own mini-series. you and i know that it’s going to be a very complimentary series, essentially a long running endorsement by a media outlet – and it is wrong and irresponsible for them to do that prior to the election. they even got a decent looking actress to play her part, and hillary would never be mistaken for attractive!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  28. sam says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    There’s three examples off the top of my head

    I’m surprised there’s any room available up there with all those angels dancing around.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  29. @Jenos Idanian #13: Oh, FFS, you RWNJs are still lying and saying Obama didn’t call Benghazi a terrorist attack?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  30. Caj says:

    Oh bless their hearts! So terrified of Hillary that they are already starting to act like the children we already know them to be. It’s OK Republicans. You may have another shot at the White House after Hillary has finished her two terms. Then again, you may never set foot inside the White House again. Oh what joy!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. Matt says:

    @Timothy Watson: /facepalm…

    That’s all you can do when you’re confronted with such stubborn refusals to accept reality..

    Next thing you know they’ll be blaming Hillary for Stephen’s preference of keeping security to a minimum…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Timothy Watson: Oh, FFS, you RWNJs are still lying and saying Obama didn’t call Benghazi a terrorist attack?

    Saying it? Yes.

    Lying? No.

    But if you wanna give Candy Crowley a bye, feel free to talk about Raddatz and the CNN/YouTube debate question-planting.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 19

  33. David M says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    Zombie lies never die. Although how could they, when the right wing are gullible enough to think Breitbart is journalism.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  34. An Interested Party says:

    This is quite amusing…I’m sure some Republicans/conservatives are thumping their chests and yelling how they’re sticking it to the MSM but the effect of this might very well be that it helps the most conservative Neanderthal to become the GOP standard bearer, in which case the GOP will be doing the Democrats (not to mention the country) a very huge favor…

    and it is wrong and irresponsible for them to do that prior to the election. they even got a decent looking actress to play her part, and hillary would never be mistaken for attractive!

    It’s no wonder that Democrats do better than Republicans with young people and women, if this kind of sexist claptrap is what passes for conservative thought these days…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  35. fred says:

    So now, GOP thinks it can boycott the news corps as it sees fit. Isn’t that censorship? I believe they will say NO as this serves their purpose, and to hell with the general population who would want to see any candidate running for POTUS as he/she performs in debates. Rince is a nut-case anyway and is a great example of what republican supporters look like (dumbos) and think about….absolutely NOTHING..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  36. bill says:

    @Caj: i think America will be sick of dems by ’16, the novelty is seriously on the wane.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  37. Neil Hudelson says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That made me, quite literally, laugh out loud while sitting in the back of a crowded convention. I and all 10,000 attendees thank you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. Davebo says:

    Please, don’t feed the Jenos troll. (I lose track, is this the fifth iteration of Bitpart??)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  39. Laurence Bachmann says:

    “this is a smart move…”

    In what universe is refusing free exposure and less preparation for the national stage a smart move? The problem with the last debates was the quality of the candidates, not their frequency. Should Paul or Rubio or Walker run they are going to need time and experience.

    Also, boycotting NBC gives NBC an excuse to boycott your convention. Do you really want to stir that pot. Stupid and petulant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Laurence Bachmann: what universe is refusing free exposure and less preparation for the national stage a smart move?

    Your statement presupposes that the exposure would be beneficial. As I noted above, the parties involved — especially CNN — have gone to great lengths to make the exposure actually harmful to the GOP and beneficial to the Democrats.

    As long as the coverage is likely to be harmful, there’s absolutely no reason for the GOP to go along with those who have previously and repeatedly shown their ill will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  41. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The last thing that MSNBC or CNN want to do is ignore the Republicans. The Democrats and the supporters in the meida must have a bogey monster to scare voters into voting for them and to supporting them in an unthinkign manner and the Republicans currently fill that void.

    What is amazing is that there are still people who act like the Republicans have any chance of winning in 2016 no matter who is nominated. The Democrats have achieved their goal of turning national politics into a one party game. And since it appears that the Democrats are ready to have a coronation for H. Clinton, there any be no election in 2016 worth paying attention to.

    Of course, what is also amazing is how hard pundits and wonks are working to ignore thinking or writing about the long term consequences of having moot presidential elections where the Democratic Party establishment will be picking the next president.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  42. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    There’s thrww examples off the top of my head why CNN should be excluded.

    Gosh, you are such a victim. All conservatives are, really. It’s like Nazi Germany.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  43. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    i think America will be sick of dems by ’16, the novelty is seriously on the wane.

    I know I am pissed whenever I look at my 401K or comparables on property I own and it is still going up. The bloom is off the rose…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  44. anjin-san says:

    If the late, great Fred Gwynne was still with us, I think he could play a mean Mitt Romney – “corporations are people, my friend”…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  45. An Interested Party says:

    As I noted above, the parties involved — especially CNN — have gone to great lengths to make the exposure actually harmful to the GOP and beneficial to the Democrats.

    The Democrats and the supporters in the meida must have a bogey monster to scare voters into voting for them and to supporting them in an unthinkign manner and the Republicans currently fill that void.

    Translation of the above: “I’m a victim!!!! I’m a victim!!!!”

    And to think these are the kind of people who whine about others playing the victim card…these people really need to form a support group…oh wait, Fox News…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  46. anjin-san says:

    Fox News…

    Was just flipping through the channels and landed on Fox for a moment, they were talking about how Mexicans coming over the border “are handed food stamps and Democrat voter registration forms.” Also something about how Obama is hiring “navigators” to teach them how to get government benefits.

    On the plus side, all the women were extremely hot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  47. Andre Kenji says:

    @anjin-san:

    On the plus side, all the women were extremely hot.

    I not a fan. Almost all the women are dyed blondes with excessive make up. By the way, it´s bizarre to see female journalists that appears on other networks when they go on Fox, because they look horrible due to the excessive make up.

    Besides that, there is almost no Hispanic or no Black women on Fox.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  48. Scott O says:

    This strategy won’t work. Nut job clips will still get out on youtube. What they need to do is script the whole thing out ahead of time. And it can’t be live, they have to let each candidate have as many takes as necessary to seem somewhat rational. Also, no more live audiences, strictly canned applause.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott:

    Seems to that CNN and NBC could not invite any Republicans on their Sunday talk shows.

    If they did that, they would have to cancel the shows.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The GOP is boycotting CNN and NBC because they are in the can for the Dems….
    BWAHAHHAAAHAAHAAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA…..

    Just exactly what do they think FOX News is???? Oh yeah, “Fair and Balanced”…..

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA….

    10,000 unemployed comedians in the world and here the GOP is giving it away for free.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  51. Davebo says:

    @anjin-san:
    I’m with you. Sure, the curtains don’t match the carpet but who really cares?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  52. gVOR08 says:

    The GOPs are retreating further into their cozy CEC bubble and further from reality. This makes them less likely to succeed, but way, way more dangerous if they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  53. Tyrell says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I have been “boycotting” these so called “debates” for a few years. Planned, rehearsed, scripted, controlled, and sanitized. Real issues are avoided. Answers are programmed. This is because of the propaganda news networks are in charge. I would have this done differently. Put these debates in the control of a local news station with the moderators from the station in charge and done in a town hall format.
    There were no debates in the important presidential races of 1964: Goldwater – Johnson; 1968: Humphrey – Nixon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  54. bill says:

    @Davebo: true, unlike that she-male maddow!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  55. An Interested Party says:

    true, unlike that she-male maddow!

    Hmm…so you’re showing that you are a sexist and a homophobe…figures…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  56. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @An Interested Party: Translation of the above: “I’m a victim!!!! I’m a victim!!!!”

    And to think these are the kind of people who whine about others playing the victim card…these people really need to form a support group…oh wait, Fox News…

    It probably escaped your incredibly limited notice, but the Democrats boycotted Fox News-sponsored debates in 2007. Guess they were whiny wannabe victims, too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  57. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It probably escaped your incredibly limited notice, but the Democrats boycotted Fox News-sponsored debates in 2007. Guess they were whiny wannabe victims, too?

    And if Republican boycott CNN and whomever, no one cares. That said, I hope that Republicans boycott as much of the reality-based networks as they can, it seems to serve Democrats well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  58. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: “Reality-based networks?”

    Apparently you didn’t see it the first time I brought it up, but in 2007 CNN hosted a debate for undecided Republican voters — and stacked the deck with Democratic plants. 1 in 4 of the supposed “undecided Republican voters” were Democratic plants. And one — a Hillary campaign advisor — was flown in to evaluate the answers to his question and as followups.

    Just what “reality” are we talking about, and just how far can they go from their “base” in reality before you accept that they’ve completely lost their way?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  59. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    undecided Republican voters

    Undecided? Between reality-based candidates and non-reality based candidates? That must have been very interesting – no wait, McCain won, I rescind that observation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0