RNC Chair Reince Priebus announced Friday that he is “suspending the partnership” with NBC News for an upcoming February debate, replacing them with National Review. Priebus broke the news in a letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack–viewable in full below–following the blatantly bias CNBC Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado on Wednesday.
“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. “The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith.”
Priebus insisted they would still have a debate on Feb. 26, which will now be hosted by the conservative National Review. In a statement, NBC called the move a “disappointing development” but also promised the network would “work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party.” However, bias aside, PPD can confirm that NBC flat-out lied to the RNC regarding formats and other debate negotiations.
That’s not, of course, to discount the bias, which was worn on the sleeves of the moderators. Criticism of the moderators and the network has been widespread, ranging from complaints of bias to simply provoking a free-for-all that never materialized. But there were multiple instances of blatant bias and dishonesty. Most notably, CNBC moderator John Harwood flat-out lied not once but twice, badly damaging his credibility with the public and mediates, alike.
First, during an exchange with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Harwood claimed (repeatedly) that the senator’s tax plan offers breaks weighted toward the rich. Despite Rubio correcting him and the record multiple times, and even pointing out that he had made those claims prior only to be forced to tweet a retraction, Harwood insisted that the Tax Foundation was on his side.
Then, during his closing statements, Donald Trump touted how he renegotiated the time and terms of the CNBC debate as an example of how he could get America winning again. Harwood denied Trump’s claim, stating that the debate was always slated for two hours. Again, that’s simply not true.
Priebus said in an interview Thursday on Fox News’ “Hannity” that he shared the campaigns’ frustration and vowed change was in the air.
“I just can’t tell you how pissed off I am. … What was delivered [on Wednesday] was just nothing but a crap sandwich,” Priebus said. “Every debate on the calendar is going to be reevaluated, reset — look at the format, the moderators, everything.”
Left-leaning POLITICO first reported that the campaigns were planning to gather at an event that the RNC was not invited to attend. Fox News reportedly confirmed that representatives for the Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham campaigns have already agreed to meet.
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