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RNC Suspends Partnership With NBC News For February Debate

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AP Photo / Susan Walsh

“The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith,” he continued. “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.”

In a Friday statement, NBC News said the network would work with the RNC to resolve any issues.

In the letter to NBC, Priebus railed against the CNBC moderators for failing to focus on financial and economic issues, and he said that the moderators made factual errors and asked “offensive” questions.

“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,” he wrote.

Priebus wrote that the RNC will still sponsor a debate on Feb. 10, and will continue to work with National Review on the debate.

Following the CNBC debate, the Republican presidential candidates complained heavily about the CNBC moderators’ questions and expressed concern that they were not asked substantive questions. Some conservatives placed blame on the RNC and called for major changes to the debate formats.

A group of candidates, led by Ben Carson's campaign, plans to meet without the RNC on Sunday to discuss grievances and propose changes to the debate formats going forward, according to a Politico report.

Priebus himself was quick to criticize the CNBC debate as well, describing it Thursday night as a "crap sandwich."

Read Priebus' entire letter:

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.

Sincerely,

Reince Priebus
Chairman, Republican National Committee