Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel joined me this AM to discuss the RNC’s divorce from the hopelessly biased towards the DNC Presidential Debates Commission which has spent cycle-after-cycle screwing the Republican candidate for president, then apologizing and promising to do better:
HH: Joined by Ronna McDaniel. She is, of course, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Good morning, Ronna. How are you?
RM: Good morning. Great to be with you. It must be really early there on the West Coast.
HH: It is. I really love being on the West Coast. I can get my sleep later in the day. I love doing the show this early. Chairwoman McDaniel, it was great to see you when we were both over at the Senate a few weeks back. But since then, you’ve done a great thing. For many years, I’ve been like Cato the Elder talking about Carthage. The Presidential Debate Commission must be destroyed is my version of Carthage must be destroyed. Carthago delenda est. And you destroyed it yesterday. And you are the hero of the hour. Would you tell people, well, let me just put it this way. Is the divorce final?
RM: The divorce is not final. We do have some hoops to go through. We’ve got to get the RNC members to pass a rule change. So that won’t actually happen officially until August or spring at the earliest. We just, we have some things to do, but the Debate Committee that the RNC had voted unanimously that we want to remove ourselves from the Commission on Presidential Debates.
HH: Now I have many, many grievances going back to Candy Crowley throwing the 2012 Election…
HH: …to moderators before, to the 2016 rules and the obvious bias to Hillary, to the 2020 cancellation of the debate, to the makeup of the debate moderators in 2020. What broke your back? I mean, what got the committee to finally say we are done with you, you are a biased arm of the DNC even if you have some token Republicans on there?
RM: Well, I think for us, it’s that the Commission had no interest in working with the Republican Party, which represents 74 million voters. And what they’ve done is they’ve set up a system where we’ll only work with the nominee. But by the time the nominee’s in place, which is after the convention in 2024, the debates are all set. So they have total control and a total monopoly. And there were three things that were really egregious in 2020. They picked a moderator that worked for Joe Biden. They started debates after a million votes had been cast. We asked them to start debates before early voting starts. And I think the third is they had members of their commission that were vocally disparaging the Republican candidate and allowed to stay in their role. And so this has been a cushy job for decades. They have a total monopoly. And we said can you just guarantee us that you won’t pick a moderator that worked for the Democrat candidate? They won’t even say yes to that. And I think…
HH: Who is the moderator who worked for Biden? Would you remind people?
RM: It was Steve Scully.
HH: And Steve is a friend of mine. I think he’s a very fine journalist, but they should not have overlooked that detail.
RM: No, and that should be for both. By the way, would the Democrats say Kayleigh McEnany can host a debate for any Democrat? I mean, you shouldn’t have an employee of one of the candidates, a former employee, host the debate. It’s just not fair. These are really simple asks that we had, Hugh. I think most Americans would say yeah, debates should start before early voting. You shouldn’t have a moderator that worked for the other candidate. Yes, the commission that’s supposed to be non-partisan shouldn’t have members disparaging either candidate. Very across the board…
HH: It was a very anti-Trump debate commission, and that’s okay with the legacy media. It’s not okay with America. I also want to point out Beltway capture is a real deal. And legacy media capture is a real deal. And the Presidential Debate Commissions have been captured both by Beltway confirmation bias and acceptance rewards, and by legacy media. So they ran it for the networks, and they ran it so that they would get along well at the White House Correspondents dinner. That’s what they ran it for.
RM: Well, and they said that to us in no uncertain terms. We do not care about what the RNC says. We do not care about what 74 million voters say. All we’re asking for is a free forum, a free and fair forum to let our candidate showcase his policies or her policies. And they can’t even give us that guarantee. And it’s very clear they don’t have any allegiance to the American people and the voters. It’s all about them and the media and the DC Beltway. And they say we’re not going to do anything with you. We don’t care what you say, even if we’ve done the most egregious thing. We don’t even say to you of course that makes common sense, that we will agree that we won’t do those things.
HH: They also make a lot of money off of this.
RM: They make a lot of money. A lot of money.
HH: And it, I wish people would investigate as they cover this story the salaries of, go to the 990. Just look up the 990, and you’ll see what people are paid. But that doesn’t begin to scratch what the side gigs are.
RM: Paid for a debate, three debates that happen every four years. I mean, it is a lot of money.
HH: Oh, they’ve built an empire. Oh, they’ve built an empire. Classic Beltway capture. So tell me what your enforcement mechanism is, because what they’re going to do is lay back and pray that the legacy media pounds on whoever the RNC’s nominee is…
RM: Yup. Yup.
HH: …and makes them play. So how are you going to prevent that capture?
RM: I want to make it very clear. We want debates. We know that our candidate when they talk about their policies in a free forum that’s transparent, we win. That’s why the Democrats need bias, right, because they know we win, too, when we talk about what we stand for without a biased moderator or the media spinning things. So we’re going to look at a couple things. One, we’ll look at just negotiating directly with the Democrat candidate with the networks. We’re going to, this now opens the door for other entities to come forward and say hey, we’ll host a debate. Remember, Hugh, senators and governors and candidates across the country are debating every year, and they don’t need a commission to arrange that.
HH: I’ve already hosted one Ohio Senate debate, one Minnesota Governors debate.
HH: I’m about to do another Senate and another gubernatorial debate.
RM: And did the commission have to arrange it? No.
RM: So this, what’s happened is they have created themselves as a middleman, and they’ve shown bias throughout the process only towards Republicans. And then they’ve created a monopoly. And we’re saying we’re taking the middleman out, and we’re going to look for other forums to showcase our candidate. And the other thing is Donald Trump in 2020 said when they went virtual, I’m going to go do my own forum with Savannah Guthrie, and it did very, very well. So I am not wed to this fact that this Commission on Presidential Debates is the only way we can put our candidate out there, especially when they’re consistently biased towards Republicans.
HH: Now Chairwoman McDaniel, David Bossie is your point man on this, and you selected very well when you put him in charge, because he’s forgotten more about debates than most people will know.
RM: I did.
HH: The Republican primary debates are coming up for 2024. I want you to start them early, because they’d make money for the party, and they would generate audience, and they would help us win in 2022.
HH: …if some of our would-be candidates who are not yet declared got together and kicked it around. Any chance of that happening?
RM: So those rules are being written right now as well. So the Debate Committee, David’s in charge of it, there’s a subcommittee on primary debates. They met yesterday. And we will be submitting our rule proposal to the full committee to be voted on in August. So we’re just putting the procedures in place, and then we’ll know what they are by the end of the year, and then we’ll start…
HH: Do they have a Hugh Hewitt paragraph in them that Hugh must be involved in every debate?
RM: (laughing) The Hugh Hewitt Amendment, yes.
HH: Yeah, just make sure David knows that that is like Rule 1A4, which is Hugh Hewitt must be on every panel.
RM: You should host all the debate committee members for a nice little roundtable and let them know.
HH: I have been lobbying forever, and they know that. But I am showing how it can be done. But I really want to stress the importance of why you’re doing this. It’s because the American people deserve a fair viewing, and they don’t need questions from the left, by the left, for the left, which is what we have had for almost 16 years.
RM: Exactly. And I mean, let’s just rewind history. Candy Crowley, Donna Brazille giving a question to Hillary Clinton, the Commission picking a moderator that worked for Joe Biden in 2020. It’s egregious. And it’s time for us to stand up for our candidate, because they’re not going to be able to stand up for themselves by the time the process plays out. So this is our only opportunity to do that. So our…
HH: And you know, Ronna, if they were interested in saving the Commission, they would have tendered a collective resignation and asked the RNC and the DNC to name new leadership. But they can’t, because they’ve got financial interests.
RM: That’s exactly right. And they would have said, you know, we were very cordial with them, Hugh. We’ve been working with them for a year. This has not been a quick decision or a rash decision. We tried to get them to just agree on very common-sense things. Nothing we’ve asked is crazy. I don’t think any Democrat on the street would say oh, yeah, it’s crazy that they picked, you know, it’s okay that they picked a moderator that worked for Joe Biden. It’s okay that they start debates after many, many states started voting. Most people agree with that. So why are they so reticent? Because power is the issue. It’s not about the American people, and that’s what debates should be about, the American people.
HH: Has it struck you that Frank Fahrenkopf, who did yeoman’s work back when he was my age, which was a couple of decades ago, which ought to tell the audience something, that Frank Fahrenkopf has the Fauci and Biden problem, which is really when you’re an octogenarian, you ought not to be making decisions about important issues?
RM: Yeah, I met with Frank many times. I really thought Frank listened and understood, and was empathetic to the issue, being a former RNC chair. And the reason he started this commission was because of the bias from the League of Women Voters that had such a control on the debates. And they have created the exact same entity. And by the way, there’s no transparency. And you know what? Republicans, we don’t like monopolies. We don’t like situations where there’s no competition in the marketplace. Let there be competition in debates.
HH: You are, you get the gold star for GOP chairpeople. No going back, Ronna McDaniel? No going back?
RM: No going back.
HH: I appreciate that so much. Carthago delenda est. In this case, the Presidential Debate Commission must be destroyed. Thank you, Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
End of interview.