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RNC losing top African-American staffer Orlando Watson

Orlando Watson, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee and the communications director for black media, left the organization, NBC News reports.
Orlando Watson is photographed in the Cannon rotunda in Washington, D.C. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP)
Orlando Watson is photographed in the Cannon rotunda in Washington, D.C.

The Republican National Committee's communications director for African-American media, Orlando Watson, has left the organization, according to an email obtained by NBC News. Watson's last day with the RNC was March 4.

Just two weeks earlier, Watson set up an off-the-record session with African-American reporters and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. Many journalists in attendance came away with an appreciation for the bluntness and directness of the session, which featured candid questions from the press and even more candid answers from Priebus regarding the GOP this cycle.

Republicans have faced numerous challenges in their efforts to appeal to African-American voters. The 2016 election cycle and front-runner Donald Trump, whose candidacy is marked by his racially-charged statements, has made these efforts an even steeper uphill climb. 

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Despite the 2013 "autopsy report" from Priebus showing the party's need to win over minority voters, many candidates running for the White House have been reluctant to embrace many of the recommendations. 

Watson was at the forefront of swimming against that tide, and in October 2013, Watson, 27, was tapped by the RNC to lead their black media efforts during a multi-year, national strategy to expand the Republican party's base in communities of color. He spent considerable energy not only forwarding the party's talking points but informing black reporters of the GOP's activities, strategies, and news when it came to African-American communities.

During his time at the RNC, Watson focused on building relationships with black reporters, and Priebus spoke at the conferences of black legacy organizations such as the National Urban League and National Association of Black Journalists.

The RNC recently launched an ad campaign with black radio, television, and print outlets. The lack of advertising dollars being spent by both the Democratic and Republican parties on black media has been a sore topic with back leaders and journalists.

The RNC instituted a successful Black History Month series, now fours years running, honoring black Republicans. The RNC also started the #CommittedToCommunity campaign in 2015, which was a first-of-its-kind joint venture with a black-owned media outlet, Radio One.

Previously, Watson worked on Sen. Rand Paul's 2010 Senate campaign before serving two years as deputy press secretary in the former presidential candidate's office on Capitol Hill.

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