RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told msnbc last week that he's not only interested in excluding various networks from hosting debates, he also intends to reject debate moderators unless he considers them sufficiently "interested in the future of the Republican Party and our nominees." I'd hoped he was kidding, or at a minimum, hadn't fully thought this through.
But the conservative Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reports this morning that the RNC really is "looking to scrap the old model of having reporters and news personalities ask the questions at candidate forums."
...GOP insiders tell [Bedard] that they are considering other choices, even a heavyweight panel of radio bigs Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.They told [Bedard] that they are eager to bring in questioners who understand Republican policies and beliefs and who have the ability to get candidates to differentiate their positions on core conservative values.The move comes as several conservatives are pressuring the party to have Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin ask the debate questions. "It makes a lot of sense. We'd get a huge viewership, they'd make a lot of news and maybe have some fun too," said one of the advocates of the radio trio hosting debates.
This may sound like a lot of behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt, but RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer was asked about the 2016 debates last week, and he reportedly responded, "Mark Levin should ask the questions."
The RNC can obviously do as it pleases, but replacing journalists with right-wing media personalities seems like a truly horrible idea. It not only undermines party rebranding by reinforcing the impression that the party is beholden to loud-mouth extremists, but it also suggests Republicans are afraid of real questions from real media professionals.