They apparently weren't kidding.
The GOP's governing body approved a resolution on Friday barring NBC News and CNN from partnering with the Republican National Committee in hosting 2016 presidential primary debates.Members of the RNC, gathered in Boston for their Summer Meeting voted to bar NBC News and CNN from participating in 2016 debates due to forthcoming projects about Hillary Clinton planned by both network. They approved the resolution by a voice vote.The resolution states that the RNC would not "partner with (CNN or NBC) in the 2016 presidential primary debates nor sanction any primary debates they sponsor."
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus added, "We're done putting up with this nonsense. There are plenty of other outlets. We'll still reach voters, maybe more voters. But CNN and NBC anchors will just have to watch on their competitors' networks."
Also note, RNC communications director Sean Spicer confirmed to Dylan Byers that this new policy would extend to NBC and CNN's Spanish-language channels -- Telemundo and CNN Espanol -- both of which will now also be excluded from 2016 events.
Presumably, Republican officials would reconsider the boycott if NBC Entertainment and CNN scrapped plans for specials on Hillary Clinton, though there is no indication the networks are prepared to pull the plug on the productions just to make the RNC happy.
NBC and CNN may try to host candidate debates anyway, but if Republican presidential hopefuls participate in events that are not "sanctioned" by the party, the candidates would face undetermined punishment, probably in the form of lost convention delegates.
For the record, the boycott will not include Fox News, despite Fox's reported role in producing NBC's Clinton miniseries. I haven't seen official confirmation that msnbc would also be excluded, but if NBC News and Telemundo are out, it stands to reason my employer would be barred as well.
And then, of course, there's the question of debate moderators.
We talked yesterday about a report that Republicans would consider replacing journalists with right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. The unabashedly conservative Washington Times ran a follow-up report this morning, suggesting there's something to this rumor.
The notion of tapping the trio of conservative talking wonks gathered steam when RNC communications head Sean Spicer, during a Sirius XM Radio interview last week, said that "Mark Levin should ask the questions" in upcoming debates during the campaign season.His comment followed similar remarks by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who told Fox News' Andrea Tantaros that a radio debate moderated by her, Mr. Levin and Mr. Hannity would be a "good idea.""I mean, there's a lot of good people out there that can actually understand the base of the Republican Party, the primary voters," Mr. Priebus said.
In case this isn't already obvious, excluding major news organizations and replacing journalists with right-wing media personalities at debates is a great idea if Republicans intend to have a nice conversation with themselves. The epistemic closure that's helped to define the party's discourse in recent years will have an even more impenetrable dome -- far-right candidates will field far-right questions from far-right loudmouths, all in the hopes of impressing far-right voters. And if the goal is to be elected the leader of a far-right club in a far-right treehouse, all of this would seem quite rational.
But I seem to recall reading the Republican National Committee's "Growth and Opportunity Project" report back in March, and this tidbit of wisdom on page 7: "The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue."
At the time, this sentiment reflected sound judgment and a fair-minded recognition of the party's challenges. Five months later, it simply looks hilarious.