On Friday, two days after the CNBC debate that was roundly mocked for poor moderating on the hosts' part, the RNC cut ties with NBC in regard to their joint February debate, describing the Wednesday debate as "petty and mean-spirited." The RNC's chairman, Reince Priebus, wrote in a public letter to NBC chief Andrew Lack that, given that CNBC is an arm of NBC, the Wednesday debate he described was disrespectful to the point that the RNC and NBC can no longer work together. NBC had planned to host a Republican debate on Feb. 26 of next year.
"I just sent this letter to NBC News suspending our partnership for the February Debate," Priebus tweeted Friday. Prior to the decision, Priebus had explicitly condemned the questions asked of the primetime candidates: "CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled," he tweeted. "I will fight to ensure future debates allow for a more robust exchange ... In spite of the moderators, I'm proud of our team for standing up against the improper and unprofessional display put on by CNBC."
Here's the full letter:
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.
Reince PriebusChairman, Republican National Committee