Early Friday afternoon, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sent a nastygram to NBC News, suspending the Republican Party’s partnership with the network.

After the third Republican presidential debate, which was hosted by CNBC, Priebus said he was “ashamed” of how the network handled the event.

So adversarial were the debate moderators, that several candidates used valuable debate time to swat back. Senator Cruz had to remind moderators that the debate was, “not a cage match.”

In his letter to NBC News, Priebus accused debate moderators of employing “gotcha” questions, of being “mean-spirited,” and of intentionally attempting to embarrass Republican candidates:

Mr. Andrew Lack
Chairman, NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York 10112

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.


Reince Priebus
Chairman, Republican National Committee

Props to the RNC for refusing to work with a network blatantly engaging in hostile behavior towards Republican candidates.

The 2016 Republican primary season has brought with it unprecedented debate viewership ratings, ratings which financially benefit sponsoring networks.

I don’t envy the weight placed on RNC decision-makers. It’s virtually impossible to find a platform for Republican candidates void of leftist leanings, but engaging the public early is crucial to a general election victory.

A better idea?

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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