CNBC became the biggest story after Wednesday night’s GOP debate for all the wrong reasons, and staffers at the business network are “shell shocked” and “embarrassed” over the debate that quickly devolved into a debacle.
“We were shell shocked,” one staffer told CNN‘s Brian Stelter.
The debate scored a record 14 million viewers for the network along with record profits at $250,000 for 30 second commercials.
But the blowback against CNBC for mismanaging the debate and approving what many Republicans complained were unfair and biased questions has been deafening.
“Everyone feels pretty embarrassed,” a veteran staffer told Stelter, while others laid blame for the debate debacle on CNBC President Mark Hoffman.
CNBC viewers on Thursday wouldn’t have known there was a firestorm encircling the channel as network honchos guided talent and producers to “move on,” according to Stelter.
Producers at sister networks NBC and MSNBC were also told not to “pile on” the CNBC debate media brouhaha.
GOP candidates didn’t just have a field day at CNBC’s expense during the actual debate. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson sent emails to supporters asking for donations to help fight media bias.
“Friend, I am declaring war on the liberal media, and I need to ask a personal favor from you. We need your immediate help to fight back — do that by clicking here to donate $35, $50 or $1,000,” Cruz wrote.
Carson called the debate “ridiculous,” and complained about moderators’ “gotcha” questions before directing supporters to donate and let the campaign know what changes they’d like to see in future debate formats.
And the reviews for CNBC haven’t been pretty, with the majority of media outlets collectively pummeling the business network.
The New York Times was particularly unforgiving: “There are plenty of reasons CNBC fell short,” James Poniewozik wrote. “That it angered Mr. Priebus is not among them. A debate team’s job is not to keep the talent happy as if they were actors whose contract riders need to be fulfilled, but to challenge the candidates — firmly but fairly.”
Poniewozik concluded that the network failed to execute.
“That is the general principle, but CNBC did not make itself easy to defend with its execution. It could have used its stature as a specialized business network to dig down into economic issues. Instead it got derailed with trivia, needless fighting and good-in-theory questions with botched execution.”
CNBC didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment regarding whether it plans to host future presidential debates.