Priebus defends debate decision, dings Fehrnstrom

August 18, 2013

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday defended the RNC's decision to exclude two networks from the 2016 presidential primary debate process and jabbed a top aide on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign who publicly disagreed with the decision.

The RNC decided Friday not to partner with CNN and NBC News for any presidential primary debates during the 2016 election cycle. The networks plan to air films about Hillary Rodham Clinton, which Priebus has characterized as a “thinly veiled attempt” to help Clinton's campaign, should she run for president.

The move also allows the RNC to take more control of the debate process on the heels of a cycle in which Republican presidential candidates debated frequently. To some Republicans, the numerous debates only amplified rifts in the party.

"We don't want a whole lot of 23 debate rounds like we've had before," Priebus said.

But not all Republicans agree with the committee's decision. Eric Fehrnstrom, a top adviser on Romney's campaign, tweeted Friday, "Bad optics for the RNC to block CNN and NBC from sponsoring presidential debates. Attacking the media is a loser's game."

Priebus responded on "This Week," saying, "I don't know if his Etch-A-Sketch is on tilt," a reference to Fehrnstrom's comparison in 2012 of the children’s toy that can be used to draw a picture then shaken blank to running in the general election.

"I'm not really taking advice from Eric Fehrnstrom right now," he said.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · August 18, 2013