Why Reince Priebus' debate ultimatum misses the mark

Yes, the RNC chair has a point that primary debates are flawed. But the problem isn't moderator bias — it's the structure of the debates themselves.

Reince Priebus
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

It's difficult to blame Reince Priebus for taking a stand on 2016 presidential primary debates with CNN and NBC. Of all the criticisms of the GOP in the last election, the debates stand out as a particular sore spot for the Republican National Committee. The RNC ended up stuck with more than 20 debates hosted by media outlets the party regards as unfriendly, thanks to a number of candidates who rushed to approve debate invitations as a way of expanding their reach beyond a narrow group of supporters. Conservative activists in particular have slammed the GOP for allowing its candidates to appear in debates with mainstream-media moderators, with specific grievances against particular reporters.

The catalyst for Priebus' latest complaint is the decision by CNN and NBC to air programs that feature Hillary Clinton, presumably in a favorable light. Presumption is all we have at the moment, as neither of the films in question have been screened for critics. NBC plans a biopic miniseries starring Diane Lane as the former secretary of State, while CNN will air an independently produced documentary on Clinton.

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for HotAir.com. His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.