HH: Joined now by the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. Chairman Priebus, welcome back.
RP: Hey, Hugh Hewitt, how are you?
HH: I’m great. Congratulations. I love your throw down to CNN and NBC. Tell people about it.
RP: Well, I mean, I don’t know how many times you’ve got to get slapped in the face and punched in the nose before we finally say we’ve had enough of this. And I think if there’s any criticism, it would be that we didn’t act sooner. But the story is, is that CNN and NBC are moving forward with documentaries and a miniseries about the life of Hillary Clinton. And my view was that hey, listen, if this is what these executives want to do at their apparent news organizations, that’s fine. And my response is that they will not be a part of or being a debate partner with the Republican National Committee on any of our presidential debates coming up in 2016. We’ll just dump them and cut them out.
HH: How do you make that stick with, you know, I wrote a column in the Washington Examiner today…
RP: Yeah, I saw that.
HH: …about, you know, we’ve got 18,000 candidates. How are you going to make this stick?
RP: Well, it’s pretty simple. So we have the authority under our rules to tie the nomination for president to the debate calendar. I mean, there’s really only one thing, I mean, aside from the money and the organization, the only real legal thing a nominee needs from the Republican National Committee is they need a majority of delegates on the floor of a convention to vote for them to be the nominee. Well, if you tie the debate calendar and the rules associated with the debate calendar to the nomination process itself, then the nominee is bound by the debate calendar and the rules that we set forth. So if we say listen, we’re going to have ten debates, here are the debate partners, here are the moderators, we choose the moderators, not the other way around. And then we tell the candidates, look, you can participate in these debates. But if you raise your hand for debates other than the ones that are on this calendar, well, then you forfeit your ability, or at least you forfeit part of your ability to be the nominee of the party. And you can come up with a formula for enforcing that.
HH: First of all, let me say I accept.
HH: I know you need moderators for those debates, so I accept.
RP: Yeah, well, we need people moderating our debates that actually give a darn about the future of our party.
HH: There you go. Are you putting my name down on the top of that list, Mr. Chairman?
RP: You’ve been, you should be on the top of the list.
HH: All right. There we go.
RP: And I am putting your name down. But you know, look…
HH: You’re absolutely right.
HH: You’re 100% right, and I just want to make sure that it sticks, because if you fire a blank on this, they’ll never believe you in the future. So if they go forward and make this documentary or this miniseries, the RNC will not sanction a debate with NBC or CNN?
RP: Well, put it this way. We have statements out from the party in Iowa, the GOP in New Hampshire, the GOP in South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada, all the early states that have also pledged to not allow any sponsoring of presidential debates in their states prior to any of their primaries. I mean, this is not just me throwing a letter out. I have unanimity among the RNC to enforce this. So this is going to happen if they move forward. I suspect they will, and then I will suspect that we’ll move forward, too, and that’ll be the end of it.
HH: Now some of the arguments already being seen on the web, because you got the attention of the left, and boy do they not like this, because you’re pushing back, and that’s why I salute you, Chairman Priebus. But they’re saying you’re attempting to censor the news, two things, that you’re attempting to censor news, and number two, if a Republican can’t stand up to NBC and CNN, how can they possibly stand up to al Qaeda?
RP: Oh, sure, that’s a new one.
HH: I know.
RP: Listen, it’s not really anything about censoring or being a brat about it. The fact is they make their choices. You know, Dave Cohen from NBC, how many millions has he raised for Barack Obama? If this was something that they feel like they need to do prior to the next election, they can’t wait until after Hillary decides whether she’s going to run or not, or after the election, then they make their decision. But then I make my decision, too. I’m not angry. I’m just telling them I’m moving forward, and I’m moving forward with my own right to make a decision as to who the debate partners are going to be. And it’s not going to be CNN or NBC. Why should we? They spend all day long bashing our party and our candidates. Well, enough’s enough.
HH: Well, Joe Scarborough said on this show last week that the media was much more hostile to Ronald Reagan than it is to Republicans now. He was defending MSNBC against my criticism of it. I don’t know if you saw that or not. But do you think the media is more hostile now, especially NBC, to Republicans than they were in the time of Reagan or even W?
RP: Well, absolutely, because you’ve got it 24 hours a day now. I mean, MSNBC, I’m not going to say everybody is bad. I mean, before 11:00 in the morning, MSNBC is not bad. After 11:00 in the morning, it’s just a promotional commercial for the Democratic Party. I mean, honest to God, you listen to these guys, and I’m not even going to mention them to give them the credit, but everybody knows if you watch MSNBC after 11:00 in the morning, it is just corporate welfare for the Democratic Party. It’s disgusting.
HH: Now I do want to bring to your, get your comment, Reince Priebus. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post today. Now I know, I think he’s a libertarian, and he’s given six times as much money to Democrats as he has Republicans, but I think he’s an innovator. I think he wants to build a brand. I’m happy that the establishmentarianism of the Beltway is going to be broken up here. What’s your reaction to hearing that news?
RP: Well, you know, I don’t think it’s, I honestly haven’t thought a lot about it, Hugh, but I will say I’ve heard he’s a libertarian. I actually agree with you. I think it’s a good thing that we’re getting these different voices and different business guys that are from the tech world involved. And there’s a lot of this going on in the Silicon Valley. I spent a lot of time out there. You know, a lot of these folks have founded a lot of these big companies out west. They’re not, these guys are not liberal Democrats in the sense of the Northeast Democrats. These are really free marketers, libertarians, and I think it’s probably a good dose of the real world here in the media. So I’m optimistic. But I share you view that it can’t be all that bad to break this up.
HH: Now let me conclude by asking you about when we’re going to see the debate schedule and the primary schedule locked in, and again, that list with the moderators with the HH at the top of it, when are going to see all these details, Reince Priebus?
RP: The details, I would suspect, and I’m guessing for you now, that the details of what the calendar looks like, kind of the basic framework, maybe not who’s doing what, but the framework of what we’re talking about, my guess is at the winter meeting of the RNC, which is in January of 2014, would be when the beginning of the framework is seen by the public. But it’s going to be similar to what I outlined, a specific amount of debates, making sure, and some rules and participation and penalties for breaking the calendar.
HH: And do you have any idea when the earliest of those debates would occur?
RP: I don’t, but if I were to guess for you, for the sake of playing along here, I will tell you that my guess is you wouldn’t see a debate until August or September of 2015.
HH: Oh, amen. Thank God. That would be such a relief. And of course, I want to conclude, though, if CNN makes this documentary, or NBC makes that miniseries, you’re not going to see their name on any of those ten debates.
RP: That’s right. That’s it. It’s over.
HH: Reince Priebus, well done. I think that’s about time someone just called it what it is, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, NBC at least. CNN? Jake Tapper, I’ll miss him. I hope he was going to be part of this. But Reince Priebus, thank you. Have a great summer. Enjoy the time up there with those enormous mosquitoes in Wisconsin.
End of interview.