Following widespread criticism of this week's CNBC-hosted debate from a number of Republican campaigns, the Republican National Committee Friday suspended its partnership with NBC News for the GOP primary debate scheduled for Feb. 26. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus released a letter he said was sent to NBC News that was critical of CNBC's handling of Wednesday night's debate, saying questions from the NBC-owned network were "were inaccurate or downright offensive."
Several of the candidates were critical of the questions during the CNBC debate, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz particularly railing against the moderators. “The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media,” Cruz said to applause.
The letter released by Priebus said the RNC would consult with its candidates before deciding if the debate would be carried out as originally planned.
"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," the letter read. "We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns."
I just sent this letter to NBC News suspending our partnership for the February Debate: https://t.co/MVke5m2EBm
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) October 30, 2015
The note from Priebus specifically cited a question posed to real estate mogul Donald Trump that asked if he was running a comic book version of a campaign. Priebus noted CNBC did not deliver in asking about key issues and didn't open with a question about finance, which the letter said the network had promised.
“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 letter read.
NBC soon followed with a statement responding to the news. "This is a disappointing development," the statement read. "However, along with our debate broadcast partners at Telemundo we will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party.”
The news that the RNC was suspending its relationship comes one day after Politico reported that numerous GOP campaigns were set to meet Sunday to discuss the debate process and perhaps remove power from the RNC. The Hill reported Thursday that one of the top Republican candidates, Dr. Ben Carson, had reached out to other campaigns to discuss making changes to debate format.
The letter from Priebus appears to leave the door open for the debate to take place. "The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith," the letter read. "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."
The RNC said that while it was suspending its relationship with NBC and all of its partners, it still planned to hold a debate on Feb. 26 that would include the National Review, a conservative publication that had joined with NBC for the upcoming event.