RNC Chair Suspends Presidential Debate Partnership With NBC

The news arrives on the heels of CNBC’s widely-criticized debate on Wednesday.

Reince Priebus
AP Photo/Alonzo Adams
Caroline Nyce
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Caroline Nyce
Oct. 30, 2015, 1:16 p.m.

The Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee is strik­ing back.

In a let­ter re­leased Fri­day af­ter­noon, RNC chair Re­ince Priebus said that the RNC is sus­pend­ing its pres­id­en­tial de­bate part­ner­ship with NBC “pending fur­ther dis­cus­sion between the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee (RNC) and our pres­id­en­tial cam­paigns.” Priebus cited CN­BC’s hand­ling of Wed­nes­day’s de­bate as the reas­on for the an­nounce­ment, call­ing ques­tions “in­ac­cur­ate or down­right of­fens­ive.

“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,” the RNC chair­man wrote.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lows wide­spread cri­ti­cism of CN­BC’s host­ing of the prime-time de­bate on Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing cri­ti­cism from Ted Cruz dur­ing the de­bate it­self. In his let­ter on Fri­day, Priebus was quick to de­fer to the cam­paigns, say­ing: “We simply can­not con­tin­ue with NBC without full con­sulta­tion with our cam­paigns.”

The RNC is sched­uled to hold a de­bate on Feb. 26, 2016 in col­lab­or­a­tion with NBC, Telemundo, and Na­tion­al Re­view at the Uni­versity of Hou­s­ton. Priebus wrote that the RNC still plans to have a de­bate that night “and will en­sure that Na­tion­al Re­view re­mains part of it.”

NBC re­ac­ted to the news in a state­ment Fri­day af­ter­noon: “This is a dis­ap­point­ing de­vel­op­ment,” the state­ment reads. “However, along with our de­bate broad­cast part­ners at Telemundo we will work in good faith to re­solve this mat­ter with the Re­pub­lic­an Party.”

In a state­ment, Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign said it sup­ports the RNC’s de­cision and “look[s] for­ward to pur­su­ing al­tern­at­ives along with the RNC to en­sure can­did­ates are giv­en ample op­por­tun­ity to out­line their vis­ion for the fu­ture of our coun­try.”

“We hope net­works and fu­ture mod­er­at­ors real­ize that what happened in Col­or­ado should nev­er have oc­curred,” Ser­gio Gor, a spokes­man for Sen. Rand Paul, told Na­tion­al Journ­al in an email.

Alice Stew­art, a spokes­wo­man for Mike Hucka­bee’s cam­paign, noted that the cam­paigns have been hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions amongst them­selves since de­bate night about how to “make these de­bates more fair and sub­stant­ive.” Politico re­por­ted Thursday that the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial cam­paigns plan to meet Sunday night in Wash­ing­ton D.C.—without any­one from the RNC present—to dis­cuss how de­bates can be im­proved.

On Wed­nes­day, Cruz stopped mid-de­bate to com­plain about the qual­ity of the ques­tions: “The ques­tions asked in this de­bate il­lus­trate why the Amer­ic­an people don’t trust the me­dia,” Cruz said.

The full text of Priebus’s let­ter, which is ad­dressed to NBC News Chair­man An­drew Lack, is pos­ted on the RNC web­site.

This story has been up­dated. 

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