POLITICS

RNC Suspends Partnership With NBC News For February Debate

Candidates complained about unfair questions during this week's Republican debate.

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus sent a letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack on Friday, informing him that the party was suspending its partnership with the network after candidates complained they were treated unfairly during this week's CNBC debate.

"We are suspending the partnership with NBC News for the Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26, 2016," Priebus wrote in the letter. "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."

NBC News said that it would work to resolve the issue with the GOP. 

“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," the network said in a statement.

It's unclear whether Telemundo -- which was the only Hispanic news organization scheduled to host a GOP debate -- will remain involved in the debate.

Priebus' letter followed a Politico report that several candidates' campaigns were going to meet in Washington to consider how to take some of the organizing power for debates out of the hands of the RNC. Several candidates had complained that Wednesday's CNBC debate contained unfair questions. Accusations that CNBC had a liberal bias were somewhat surprising, considering that the network may have helped launch the super-conservative tea party movement.

Priebus slammed the debate immediately after it concluded on Wednesday, calling it "extremely disappointing."

In his letter, Priebus said the network didn't keep its promises to monitor the candidates' speaking time and let them answer an opening question about the economy. He also accused the debate moderators of asking unfair questions.

"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," he wrote. "What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas."

Read the full letter below:

Mr. Andrew Lack
Chairman, NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York 10112

 

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.

 

Sincerely,

 

Reince Priebus
Chairman, Republican National Committee

Also on HuffPost:

PHOTO GALLERY
Moments From The CNBC Republican Debate
CONVERSATIONS