The one thing the Republican candidates on stage agreed on during Wednesday’s primary debate was their dislike of “mainstream media” organizations. And the one thing audiences (even liberal ones) seemed to agree on was how poorly CNBC, the media network broadcasting the debate, framed the event. Who “won” the debate is up for argument, but there’s no doubt that the night’s biggest loser was CNBC.
Today, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent a letter to cut ties with the network’s parent organization until further notice. The missive, which is posted in full on the RNC website, begins:
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.
Priebus’s chief complaints are about the questions asked during the debate (“inaccurate or downright offensive”), the tone of the moderators throughout (“petty and mean-spirited”), and the allotment of speaking time for each candidate. Overall, he implies, the candidates were promised one kind of event and then found themselves in the midst of something very different.
He says the RNC will still hold a primary debate on February 26, but that NBC News and its properties will be excluded.
An NBC statement on the matter said simply: “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.”