I just posted about this hours ago and here we are already with movement in the debate sponsorhsip department. As a result of the fallout stemming from candidate complaints about the CNBC Republican Debate, the Republican National Committee Chairman announced today that NBC News would be removed as a sponsor from the upcoming debate in Houston on February 26, 2016. The debate will still take place on that date, currently with National Review as the sponsor, but it will be without the presence of NBC News and their Spanish-language network, Telemundo.
Report from The Hill:
The Republican National Committee has pulled out of a planned Feb. 26 debate with NBC News after widespread criticism of this week’s CNBC debate from both the party and campaigns.
“We are suspending the partnership with NBC News for the Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26, 2016,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack.
“CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith,” Priebus wrote.
“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.”
He went on to pan CNBC for “inaccurate or downright offensive” questions, specifically singling out a question to Donald Trump, who was asked whether he was running a “comic book” version of a presidential campaign.
“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,” he said.
“What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas.
He added that the network didn’t deliver on the promise to focus the debate on important issues and to allow the candidates to make opening statements. The debate instead began with a question about the candidates’ weaknesses.
Trump and Ben Carson had threatened to pull out of the debate if they could not make opening statements, which the candidate can use to express their messages even if they don’t spend as much time speaking during the event.
The RNC still plans to hold a debate on that date that includes National Review, a conservative publication that partnered with NBC for the upcoming debate.
In an email statement Friday afternoon, NBC responded to the RNC’s action saying, “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.”
For Reince Priebus to make this drastic of a move tells me the campaigns must have had a strong enough coalition to scare the RNC into action. As noted in the story, NBC says they wish to “resolve this matter” with the party. Short of continuing to be a sponsor, but not have any duties in the moderator department, I don’t know what kind of resolution can be made given how strongly worded Preibus’ statement is regarding NBC’s lack of “good faith.”
I’m sure more details will come out next week and this matter will be ongoing. To reiterate, the debate itself on February 26, 2016, is not being canceled, NBC News is simply being removed as a sponsor. No word if the venue is going to change or whether it will remain at the University of Houston.