Last Thursday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced the first debate of the 2024 presidential campaign cycle. According to RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, the party would host its first debate this August in Milwaukee, the site of next year’s Republican National Convention. The announcement omitted other relevant details, most notably the media organizations that might sponsor the August debate or any subsequent ones.
However, The New York Times reported in January that the RNC had asked the major news networks to consider hosting candidate debates. While proposals from the networks were due back in February, the party’s committee on debates has not revealed specifics about the proposals or which entities the RNC has selected to broadcast any of the respective candidate fora.
If the RNC goes ahead in partnering with some of the organizations cited in the January Times piece, it would be making a mistake. While candidates for the nation’s highest office should receive a proper vetting in the glare of the television spotlight, some would question why the RNC would agree to partner with those whose so-called “diversity” policies raise serious questions.
Consider NBC, one of the networks reportedly included in the talks with Republican officials. In July 2020, NBCUniversal News Chairman Cesar Conde announced a goal to make half of his unit’s employees nonwhite and half of the unit’s employees female. While one could argue that hiring individuals from underrepresented backgrounds might hold merit, utilizing arbitrary quotas to check off diversity boxes arguably causes more problems than it solves.
For starters, the Supreme Court last fall heard arguments in two cases regarding affirmative action in college admissions. While a decision may not come until June, the justices appeared willing to strike down the use of race-based criteria in admissions as unconstitutional.
Should the Supreme Court strike down race-based quotas this summer, it would appear highly incongruous for the RNC to subsequently host a presidential debate that would be sponsored by a network with policies contradicting the spirit, if not the letter, of such a ruling. At a minimum, the RNC should force Conde and NBCUniversal to publicly explain why they have race-based quotas in place — and why NBC takes such a narrow view of “diversity.”
Networks Don’t Measure Political Bias
Another question arises from Conde’s statements regarding the importance of measurement as a means of quantifying diversity. NBCUniversal’s diversity data impact report surveys employees based on their race and sex but not party affiliation or ideology. It, therefore, seems fair to ask why NBC News cares so little about potential (or some would argue actual) ideological bias, given Conde’s belief in the axiom that you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.
In this regard, NBCUniversal isn’t alone. From The Times to the Hearst publishing empire to the News Leaders Association, diversity surveys within journalism focus on race, sex, and sexuality while excluding any examination of political views. When I asked to review Politico’s diversity report so I could see whether it surveys employees’ partisan or ideological leanings, a spokesman at the publication that advertises itself as nonpartisan refused to provide a copy. It appears that, to the media, diversity is only skin deep in every sense of the word.
Why Endorse the Networks’ Biased Coverage?
The point is not that conservatives should comprise a certain percentage of a newsroom or that Republican candidates should only answer questions from conservative reporters. The true problem stems from “diversity” efforts that, for all the supposed focus on “lived experience,” promote a monoculture that obsesses about race while giving the views of rural and conservative voters short shrift.
To put it more bluntly, while I, as a white male, may see many individuals on TV news or in media in general, who look like me, I see far fewer who think like me. I would bet most conservatives, regardless of race or sex, would agree.
That’s why the RNC should think long and hard before allowing organizations that regularly marginalize conservative voices to host presidential debates. Doing so gives the patina of bipartisanship to a doubly destructive force, one that perpetuates racial differences while practically ignoring the views and concerns of half of the American voters.
The Times noted that prior rounds of presidential primary debates had netted cable networks like CNN profits into the seven-figure range. That gives Republican officials leverage — not to dictate coverage but to question the networks’ fixation with race-based forms of diversity to the virtual exclusion of all others. McDaniel and the RNC staff should use it — and if they don’t, Republican presidential candidates should do so for them.