POLITICS: PennAve

RNC chair defends network boycotts in 2016 GOP debates

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Republican Party,CNN,ABC,NBC,2016 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Tim Mak,Reince Priebus

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus took a swipe at former Mitt Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom Sunday over whether the GOP should proceed with threats to exclude two networks from hosting the 2016 Republican presidential debates.

At Priebus' urging, the RNC last week unanimously approved a non-binding resolution calling for a boycott of NBC and CNN if the networks air two planned features on Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state who would be the presumptive front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination if she decides to run.

Priebus defended the boycott on ABC's "This Week," saying, "These guys are making it a lot easier for us to pare [the number of debates] down to a reasonable number."

The 20 GOP debates in 2012 are widely seen as a mistake by Republican leaders, who claim that bias by the hosting networks undercut their candidates and ultimately damaged Romney, their eventual nominee.

But Fehrstrom, Romney's advisor, took to Twitter to attack the boycott as bad strategy.

"Bad optics for the RNC to block CNN and NBC from sponsoring presidential debates," he tweeted. "Attacking the media is a loser's game."

Priebus shot back at Fehrstrom Sunday, saying, "I don't know if his Etch-A-Sketch is on tilt. I'm not really taking advice from Eric Fehrnstrom right now."

Priebus was referring to Fehrnstrom's misstep during the 2012 campaign, when the senior Romney advisor said that shifting from a primary campaign to a general election campaign was "almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

Conservatives and Democrats seized on the comment as evidence that Romney is unprincipled.

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