RNC suddenly discovers NBC is biased, suspends participation in debate

The Republican National Committee announced that they are suspending their partnership with NBC News and will not participate in February's debate sponsored by the network.  RNC Chairman Reince Pribus left room for a return to NBC sponsorship.

The move by the RNC pre-empts a probable move by the presidential campaigns to take over the debate rulemaking process.  The campaigns will meet on Sunday to see how they can negotiate their own debate rules, freezing out the RNC from being involved.

The Hill:

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," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack. 

Since CNBC is an NBC Universal property, "We are suspending the partnership with NBC News” for its Feb. 26 debate. 

Priebus’s email panned 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.    

"What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas.  

Debates can mean big money for networks, which charge premium prices to advertise for the event. CNBC reportedly charged about $250,000 for a 30-second ad during Wednesday night's debate — similar to reported prices for the previous CNN debate. 

The decision is the RNC’s response to the rumbling of complaints that bubbled over during the debate, when Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and other bashed the moderators for political bias and unfair questions. Immediately after the debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign manager confronted the network backstage over how little time his candidate received. 

GOP front-runner Donald Trump came out in support of the RNC’s decision Friday afternoon. 

"The campaign supports the RNC’s decision to suspend the debate on February 26th due to the total lack of substance and respect exhibited during Wednesday’s night’s debate," Trump's campaign said in a statement. "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."

A spokesperson for Ben Carson said the campaign has “no objections to the decision,” but still wants to see changes to the process to ensure the debates are “about informing the public and not about network ratings.”

Some campaigns are still set to meet this weekend to air their grievances and determine what other steps might be taken to avoid issues in future debates. 

Simply put, Reince Priebus and the RNC blew it.  They took over the debate process and rulemaking, and what we've seen so far has damaged the party and individual candidates.  The idea that they couldn't have forseen the bias and outright disrespect shown by CNBC moderators is absurd. 

But can the campaigns do any better?  They'll still be dealing with biased news networks and moderators looking to destroy them and the party on national TV.  It is hoped that they can get a fairer deal, but is that reasonable to expect?

The fact is, the networks need the candidates as much as the candidates need the exposure.  If the campaigns stick together, they may be able to do a better job of minimizing their disadvantages with the networks than the RNC.

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