RNC Losing Top Black Staffer

Orlando Watson
Orlando WatsonRNC

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By Lauren Victoria Burke

Orlando Watson, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee and the Communications Director for Black Media is leaving, according to an email obtained by NBC. Watson's last day with the RNC was March 4th.

Just two weeks earlier, Watson set up an off-the-record session with African American reporters and RNC Chair Reince Priebus. Many journalists in attendance came away with an appreciation for the bluntness and directness expressed at the session which featured candid questions from the press and even more candid answers from Priebus, regarding the GOP this cycle.

There have been many challenges Republicans have faced in their efforts to appeal to African American voters. The 2016 election cycle, which has featured billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump, has made their efforts an even steeper uphill battle.

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Orlando WatsonRNC

Since the 2013 "autopsy report" from Priebus, many candidates running for the White House have been reluctant to embrace many of the recommendations, and Watson was at the forefront of swimming against that tide.

But in October 2013, Watson, 27, was tapped by the RNC to lead their Black media efforts during a multi-year, national strategy to expand the Republican party's base in communities of color. Watson spent considerable energy not only forwarding the party's talking points but informing Black reporters of the GOP's activities, strategies, and news when it came to African-American communities.

Since Watson came on the GOP has stepped up their relationships with black reporters and Priebus has engaged with Black legacy organizations such as the National Urban League (NUL) and National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) by speaking at their conferences.

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The RNC recently launched an ad campaign with black radio, television, and print outlets. The lack of advertising dollars being spent by both the Democratic and Republican parties on Black media has been a sore topic with Black leaders and journalists.

There was also a successful Black History Month series the RNC instituted which is now fours years running, that honors Black Republicans that has won positive press. The RNC also started the #CommittedToCommunity campaign in 2015, which was a first of its kind joint venture with a black owned media outlet, Radio One.

Previously, Watson worked on Sen. Rand Paul's 2010 campaign before serving as deputy press secretary for two years in the former presidential candidate's official Senate office on Capitol Hill.

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