Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Rand Paul Backs RNC on Primary Debates

Paul has openly acknowledged his interest in running for president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he supports a move by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to take more control of GOP presidential primary debates.

“Should we be scheduling debates and allowing people who used to, and still do, have contact with the active Democrat party? Should we be subjecting ourselves to that or should we try to have more neutral or objective type of moderators?” Paul said in a radio interview Wednesday morning, referring to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos’ past work as a top adviser to President Bill Clinton.

On Tuesday, Priebus sent letters to the heads of NBC Entertainment and CNN Worldwide calling on the executives to scrap planned features on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — or else they might be barred from holding RNC-sanctioned debates in 2016.

“Their actions to promote Secretary Clinton are disturbing and disappointing,” Priebus said in a statement. “I hope Americans will question the credibility of these networks and that NBC and CNN will reconsider their partisan actions and cancel these political ads masked as unbiased entertainment.”

Republicans have been pushing to take more control of their party’s debate process. Paul, a Kentucky Republican who is considered a possible presidential candidate, endorsed their initiative Wednesday.

During an appearance on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show, Paul referred to the January 2012 debate sponsored by ABC News and WMUR-TV in which Stephanopoulos asked about the landmark Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut.

“You can look back to the last primary season and wonder whether there was collusion between some reporters,” Paul said in the interview. “You know, Stephanopoulos asks an obscure question about Griswold and birth control when no Republicans were bringing up anything about trying to have any limits on birth control.”

Stephanopoulos brought up Griswold as part of a debate over birth control and abortion rights — not uncommon topics on the campaign trail. The legal justifications used in Griswold resurfaced in Roe v. Wade.

A spokesperson from ABC News declined to comment for this story.

“You wonder if there was a concerted action between a former Democrat operative and basically the president’s campaign,” Paul said. “It makes you wonder.”

In Griswold, the court held that a right to privacy existed within the Constitution’s “penumbras” and “emanations” even though the right itself wasn’t specifically enumerated. Paul has long said he supported the Griswold ruling, noting his concerns about invasions of privacy by the government.

  • Bob Viering

    Paul’s comments sound like the Fox News interview of Reza Aslan…How can you do a fair interview if you are a Democrat? I’m growing very weary of constant Republican conspiracy theories. Instead of blaming the media maybe you need to work harder to find a way to effectively communicate your ideas.

  • thereasonableprogressive

    Senator Ryan, your nit-picking does not make you look presidential. Stick with real issues. Believe me, there is no media conspiracy out to get you or your party.

  • Silverstar

    Paul is right to pursue this. He didn’t even mention Crowley’s disgusting misinformation during one of the general debates. She broadcasted false information to the widest audience possible (“he did call it terrorism at that time in the rose garden”), then once the debate was over and competing networks weren’t carrying her anymore she immediately corrected her false statement only to CNN’s small audience. It was literally just minutes after the end of that debate, and later the other networks mostly buried the correction altogether.

    If republicans keep letting democrats run debates they will deserve what they get.

  • oldhandatthis

    Hard to blame the RNC for tightening control of primary debates after the embarrassing three ring circus the last time. Hopefully they can weed out the pretenders and charlatans this time, they really distorted the debate the last time.

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