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NBC’s David Gregory to Reince Priebus: Is Hillary Clinton ‘The Candidate That You...Most Fear?’

Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, sat down with David Gregory, moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press and was immediately met with a barrage of questions on Hillary Clinton ranging from Karl Rove’s questioning of Clinton health to her tenure as Secretary of State.

Gregory did his best to defend Ms. Clinton from her legacy and asked Priebus: “Is she the candidate that you, as the head of the Republican Party, most fear?”

The interview began with Gregory immediately asking his guest about Karl Rove: “What about the Republicans saying this was over the line? Should Karl Rove apologize?...But do you think it was over the line?"

After Priebus shot back that “It was fair game for Ronald Reagan. It’s fair game for John McCain,” the NBC host doubled down on his demands for the RNC chair to condemn Rove:

Wasn't part of why there was a backlash against that is there was innuendo, there was a suggestion about, "He's just not-- his brain doesn't work right." Or in this case, it's, "Her brain may not work right, and she's hiding something about it." Was that over the line?...You're head of the party. Would you like to sidestep away from this, or would you like to double down?

As the interview continued, the subject of Ms. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was brought up, specifically Benghazi, to which Gregory wondered: “Are you suggesting that somehow Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, who got started an independent review of what happened at Benghazi was trying to sweep Benghazi under the rug?”

Priebus responded “She is trying to sweep Benghazi under the rug. She absolutely is. And if you want any evidence of that, ask the families of people who lost their sons in Benghazi. They've talked plenty about what happened in Benghazi.”

Gregory concluded the back-and-forth by defending Ms. Clinton and argued that “It doesn't mean that she swept it under the rug. They may be dissatisfied, right, with what they’ve learned.”

See relevant transcript below. 

NBC's Meet the Press

May 18, 2014

DAVID GREGORY: I'm now joined by Reince Priebus, the chair of The Republican National Committee. Welcome back to Meet the Press.

REINCE PRIEBUS: Good morning David. 

GREGORY: What about the Republicans saying this was over the line? Should Karl Rove apologize?

PRIEBUS: I don't-- yeah, it's up to Karl Rove. I mean Karl Rove's a political operative, I understand--

GREGORY: But do you think it was over the line?

PRIEBUS: Look, I think that health and age is fair game. It was fair game for Ronald Reagan. It's fair game for John McCain. When people came at John McCain and said maybe he's psychologically not fit because he was a prisoner of war. And so look–

GREGORY: Though wasn't-- wasn't part of why there was a backlash against that is there was innuendo, there was a suggestion about, "He's just not-- his brain doesn't work right." Or in this case, it's, "Her brain may not work right, and she's hiding something about it." Was that over the line?

PRIEBUS: Look, I don't think there's a graceful way to bring up age, health and fitness for a candidate that wants to be President of the United States. I think the more important issue for me, as leader of this party, is what's the record of Hillary Clinton. What was her record as a Secretary of State? Benghazi, Boko Haram, Syria, Russia. Those are going to be the issues that I believe will cause her to rethink whether she actually--

GREGORY: And we should--

PRIEBUS: --wants to run for president.

GREGORY: But we can get to that. But Karl Rove doesn't do things by accident. What he injected was an attack into the firmament of the Republican grassroots. You're head of the party. Would you like to sidestep away from this, or would you like to double down?

PRIEBUS: No. Listen, it's not a matter whether sidestep or double down. It's going to be an issue. It's going to come up, David. We're going to be at this point at some time if Hillary Clinton runs for president. I mean the issue of her health and her age is going to come up. And it's--

GREGORY: Do you think she suffered some--

(OVERTALK)

GREGORY:--sort of brain injury that raises legitimate questions about whether she's healthy to serve as commander-in-chief?

PRIEBUS: I'm not a doctor. What I do know is that the issue's going to come up, as it does for any person running for president. What I think is going to make her rethink whether she should actually run for president-- by the way, I don't actually think she will, if she has another month, which she just had. But the issues that I talked about are going to be the issues that make her--

GREGORY: So--

PRIEBUS:--unacceptable to--

(OVERTALK)

GREGORY: But that's what I want to follow up on. The month that she just had. Gail Collins writing sympathetically toward her in The New York Times over the weekend. I'm going to put a portion of that up on our screen, get your response for it. "For the right, Clinton's responsible for nearly everything bad that occurs in the world, including the terrible kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls, which happened either because Benghazi made us look weak,” according to Laura Ingraham, “or because the State Department never formally designated Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization. Somewhere right now someone is working on a story that will reveal that Hillary Clinton started the elevator fight between Jay-Z and his sister-in-law." Is the mission to persuade her not to run?

PRIEBUS: No, it's not the mission. But, you know, she's coming out with a book called, I think it's Hard Choices, or something like that. She's made a series of bad choices. And this writer that you just quoted, talk about sweeping things under the rug. Benghazi shouldn't be swept under the rug, four diplomats had died. Boko Haram, these people have over 200 girls in Nigeria. The Syria issue, the Russian rest-- listen--

(OVERTALK)

GREGORY: Let's be clear, because there will be a lot of follow-up on that. Are you suggesting that somehow Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, who got started an independent review of what happened at Benghazi was trying to sweep Benghazi under the rug?

PRIEBUS: Well, she is trying to sweep Benghazi under the rug. She absolutely is. And if you want any evidence of that, ask the families of people who lost their sons in Benghazi. They've talked plenty about what happened in Benghazi. The fact of the matter is–

GREGORY: That doesn't--

(OVERTALK)

GREGORY: It doesn't mean that she swept it under the rug. They may be dissatisfied, right, with what they’ve learned--

(OVERTALK)

PRIEBUS: Well, when Senator Johnson tried to ask her questions about Benghazi and her response is, "What difference does it make?" I can assure you that that will be an issue if she does decide to run. My view, though, David, is that, given the month she just had, I actually doubt very much whether she actually will run for president in 2016. I know a lot of people around her want her to run. And I think that they're purposely creating this environment around her.

(OVERTALK)

PRIEBUS: She's causing us to talk about her today.

GREGORY: Is she the candidate that you, as the head of the Republican Party, most fear?

PRIEBUS: No, I don't-- actually, I don't fear. I think Hillary's a known product. Actually, I think it's sometimes worse running against a blank slate. Hillary has decades of history for us to explore. You know, her role in HillaryCare, when she was First Lady. Her Senate experience, where there's nothing significant to point to. And her Secretary of State experience, which is not just not significant, but there's all kinds of problems for her .

GREGORY: All right, Chairman Priebus, always good to have you.

PRIEBUS: All right, David.

GREGORY: Thanks for being here.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, sir.

— Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Jeffrey Meyer on Twitter.