RNC Suspends Partnership With NBC for Feb. Debate

The Republican National Committee said it is suspending the partnership with NBC News for the Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on Feb. 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," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a letter to NBC Chairman Andy Lack. "We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns."

It was unclear in the letter whether the party would forbid NBC from televising the debate and open up the broadcast rights to others. The debate was expected to be telecast on NBC and its Spanish-language partner, Telemundo.

Republican presidential campaigns are planning to meet Sunday to discuss their issues with the primary debate process, NBC News has confirmed. Sources told NBC that nearly all of the campaigns have expressed deep frustration with the RNC, saying it hasn't fought for the interests of the candidates.

The campaigns' objections grew after CNBC's Wednesday debate. Republicans were angered by what they characterized as petty, non-substantive questions by debate moderators Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood designed to embarrass the candidates. Harwood asked Donald Trump whether he was running a "comic-book version of a presidential campaign."

Jeb Bush was asked to explain why his campaign was doing so poorly in the polls, Carly Fiorina was asked why Americans should hire her when she had been fired by Hewlett-Packard and Marco Rubio was asked if he should "slow down, get a few things done first" before running for president.

"The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith," Priebus said in the letter. "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. 

NBC responded to the suspension, 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."

CNBC had earlier responded to the criticism of the debate, saying in a statement, “People who want to be President of the United States should be able to answer tough questions.”

The Trump campaign said on Friday it supported RNC's decision.

"We look 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," said campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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