UPDATE 10:31 a.m. PT: NBC has responded to the RNC’s decision, saying in a statement: “This is a disappointing development. However, along with our debate broadcast partners at Telemundo we will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party.”
ORIGINAL STORY: The Republican National Committee (RNC) has suspended its partnership with NBC over the CNBC Republican debate the cable news network hosted Wednesday. The suspension puts into question whether NBC will still host the scheduled upcoming Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26, 2016.
The announcement was made by Priebus in a letter to NBC News boss Andy Lack.
“The RNC’s sole role in the primary debate process is to ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay out their vision for America’s future. We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns,” Priebus said in the letter.
Priebus, who already blasted the handling of the event by CNBC, did not hold back in bashing them again.
“CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates,” he said. “What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas.”
Priebus isn’t alone in thinking moderators mishandled the event, but CNBC, for its part, is doubling down on future debates.
In response to the criticism, the business network said, “People who want to be President of the United States should be able to answer tough questions.”
The debate’s record ratings are probably making the criticism a little easier to swallow for network honchos. The GOP debate scored 14 million viewers for CNBC, its highest audience ever.
See the full letter from Priebus to Lack below.
Dear Mr. Lack,
I write to inform you that pending further discussion between the Republican National Committee (RNC) and our presidential campaigns, we are suspending the partnership with NBC News for the Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26, 2016. The RNC’s sole role in the primary debate process is to ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay out their vision for America’s future. We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns.
The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith. We understand that NBC does not exercise full editorial control over CNBC’s journalistic approach. However, the network is an arm of your organization, and we need to ensure there is not a repeat performance.
CNBC billed the debate as one that would focus on “the key issues that matter to all voters–job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy.” That was not the case. Before the debate, the candidates were promised an opening question on economic or financial matters. That was not the case. Candidates were promised that speaking time would be carefully monitored to ensure fairness. That was not the case. Questions were inaccurate or downright offensive. The first question directed to one of our candidates asked if he was running a comic book version of a presidential campaign, hardly in the spirit of how the debate was billed.
While debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates’ visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of “gotcha” questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates. What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas.
I have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. However, I also expect the media to host a substantive debate on consequential issues important to Americans. CNBC did not.
While we are suspending our partnership with NBC News and its properties, we still fully intend to have a debate on that day, and will ensure that National Review remains part of it.
I will be working with our candidates to discuss how to move forward and will be in touch.
Chairman, Republican National Committee