On Saturday night, I wrote that the GOP needs to make an example of NBC News after the CNBC moderating debacle.

The point was not that NBC News is the worst offender, it’s that it was the wrong place at the wrong time for NBC News, and the right place at the right time for the GOP to pick a fight with the media. The RNC decision to pull NBC News (and its affiliate, Telemundo) from the debate to be co-moderated with National Review was a first step.

But it is not enough. The GOP needs to reset the narrative of the networks being in control.

For too long GOP presidential candidates have been subjected to Democrat-agenda journalists during Republican primary debates.

George Stephanopoulos’ grilling of Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican debate was a classic of the genre:

Just a few weeks after this debate, the Democrats launched their War on Women campaign theme. Stephanopoulos was just the preview. Coincidence? I think not.

Republican candidates have taken up the charge, with demands from various campaigns for a new set of rules to govern debates.

The media reaction was predictable.

Ryan Lizza from The New Yorker, who recently misrepresented the context of Jeb Bush’s statement that “stuff happens,” tweeted that it was hard to imagine that Democrats would attempt to control the media coverage. That, of course, was one of the least self-aware statements ever (please retweet):

Erik Wemple, WaPo’s fact checker, is upset about what he called The Republicans’ new plan to regulate the media industry. Focusing on a draft plan that Wemple acknowledges has not been signed-off on by any campaign, Wemple writes:

No, there’s nothing in here that violates the First Amendment, which prohibits laws infringing on the freedom of the press, among other things. Republican candidates can honestly say that they’re merely asking questions of the media, just the way the media asks questions of them. Yet the questions reflect no understanding of where the prerogatives of candidates end, and where those of the news media begin. More simply, they show a cluelessness about what television networks do.

Well, no Republican candidate or set of candidates is required to go on any network under rules developed by the network. It’s a free market, or at least it should be. If the GOP collectively decides it doesn’t like the network rules and moderators, the GOP collectively can decide to go its own way.

For too long the narrative has been that the GOP needs the media more than the media needs the GOP.

Only then will Republican candidates get a fair shake during debates.

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