There will be no Republican debate on Telemundo. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has pulled the plug on the presidential primary debate, which was scheduled for February 26 in Houston.
Priebus today sent a letter to NBC news chairman Andrew Lack canceling the previously sanctioned Telemundo and National Review co-sponsored event, citing “bad faith” over how NBC news cable property CNBC handled Wednesday’s debate.
In the letter, Priebus claims the committee wants to ensure its candidates are given a “full and fair” opportunity to lay out their political visions, instead of having moderators ask “gotcha questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.”
In response, NBC News issued this brief 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.”
The debate attracted a record 14 million viewers for CNBC, which sold ads at about $250,000 per spot. The popularity of the debates has hiked the ad rates, bringing in substantial revenues for the networks hosting presidential debates.
Here is Priebus’ 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.
Chairman, Republican National Committee