Debate Effect: GOP Leaves NBC

The Republican National Committee (RNC) informed NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack that it will not participate in a debate scheduled on the network for February 26, 2016. NBC News was to hold the debate at the University of Houston.

RNC Chariman Reince Priebus told Lack: “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 enjoyed success as a business-only news network, but like many of NBC’s news properties, finds itself facing stiff competition from other properties such as Fox Business and Bloomberg TV.

“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,” Priebus said in the letter. “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.”

Candidates, led by Ted Cruz, consistently wrangled with moderators over questions. The first Democrat debate, in which candidate Bernie Sanders sportingly exonerated Hillary Clinton for her on-going criminal e-mail scandal, offered a stark contrast to the reality-TV style treatment of the GOP debates.

“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,” Priebus said. “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.”

In a way, this is a showmanship move by Priebus in response to both candidate and voter backlash. At the end of the day, the RNC should not put its candidates or its debates in the hands of the biased mainstream media.