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RNC Replaces NBC News With CNN For February Debate

Fifth Republican Debate

Back in October, the Republican National Committee suspended its debate partnership with NBC for a debate that was scheduled to be held at the end of February in advance of the what has come to be called the “SEC Primary,” a Super Tuesday like day on which a number of southern states will hold their primaries. This suspension was largely in response to the widely derided debate held on October 28th and aired on CNBC in which the debate moderators strayed far from the economic subjects intended to be the subject of the debate and clearly lost control of the debate, an event which led to an aborted effort by the campaigns to try to take control of the debate process themselves. That February debate was never officially removed from the calendar, though, and now the RNC has announced that NBC has been replaced as the media sponsor of the debate with CNN:

The Republican National Committee officially severed ties on Monday with NBC for what was supposed to be a Feb. 26 Republican primary debate in Houston. Instead, CNN will host the debate in Houston on Thursday, Feb. 25, five days before Super Tuesday.

The committee voted via conference call Monday after negotiations with NBC failed, two sources familiar with the call confirmed. The RNC initially suspended the relationship with NBC on Oct. 30, following a debate on CNBC that angered many of the campaigns and the RNC for the network’s handling of the debate format and the moderators’ line of questioning.

At the time, NBC said it looked forward to working in “good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party.”

Though NBC won’t be a part of the debate, NBC-owned Telemundo will still take part as will the original conservative media partner National Review. Salem Communications, which has partnered with CNN for its previous two Republican primary debates will also participate.

“The Republican National Committee has decided to move forward without NBC’s participation in our February debate in Houston, Texas. The RNC has awarded the debate to CNN, who will broadcast it on Thursday, February 25th in Houston at a location to be decided,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a statement.

CNN has already hosted two of the Republican debates this cycle, in September at the Reagan Library in California and last month in Las Vegas. The network will also host another debate in Florida in March, meaning that CNN will host as many debates for the GOP as Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network combined. By and large, the CNN debates have been quite good, although both of them were characterized by large numbers of people on the main stage thanks to the size of the Republican field. One suspects that the field will be much smaller by the time the February debate rolls around, and certainly much smaller by the time the March debate rolls around. Indeed, by the time that March debate rolls around the GOP field is likely to be winnowed down to two or three candidates, which could make things quite interesting to say the least. At the very least, I think we can say with confidence that there will be no undercard debate in March, and probably not in February either, so that will be an hour of our time that won’t be wasted.

Interestingly, the RNC will continue its relationship for the February debate with Telemundo for a Spanish simulcast of the debate notwithstanding the fact that Telemundo is owned by NBC’s parent company. If nothing else, this is a sign that the party is at least partly aware of the value of trying to keep reaching out to the Latino community notwithstanding the fact that Donald Trump’s candidacy has largely been a walking, talking warning sign to that community that the Republican Party isn’t really the place for them. It’s unclear though, if Telemundo reporters will be participating in the questioning of the candidates. If it does, the most logical candidate for that role would be Jose Diaz-Balart, although that could be awkward since Diaz-Balart is also an anchor on MSNBC. In any case, it was always clear that this February debate would go forward, the only question was where it would air. Apparently, the RNC is sending the message that it has no real confidence in NBC News as an institution and, after the CNBC debacle I can’t say I blame them.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    You might want to take a look at the WP article on Trump this morning. Trump has supposedly threatened to sue them if they run it, and if you read it, you will see why. It’s an extremely detailed expose of Trump’s shenanigans with the whole Atlantic City debacle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Andre Kenji says:

    If you can´t handle a bunch of CNBC hosts, you can´t handle ISIS or Putin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  3. J-Dub says:

    I tend to think the lack of substance in the Republican debates is not the fault of the moderators. When they are questioning each others citizenship and choice of footwear, is it any surprise that the debates provide nothing but entertainment value?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Yeah, huh? But he is going to make Mexico build that wall. Sure he is.
    I gotta tell ya…a surprising number of the local Republican die-hards…the guys you can always count on for a political argument at the local watering hole…are in this guys camp. I have lost all respect for them.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: On top of the WAPO article on his Atlantic City casinos a couple days ago NYT did a good article on his New York Plaza Hotel deal. Also not flattering. He was personally bankrupt, but the creditors let him up to keep him on board as salesman for the properties they were dumping.

    His business and negotiating skills are bunk. Now that he’s actually getting some scrutiny, how long ’til the faithful figure it out? But he’s still got his deep personal faith to keep him going. “Two Corinthians walk into a bar… “

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. gVOR08 says:

    OK, took me a few minutes, and it isn’t much, but:
    Two Corinthians walked into a bar. One of them was too young to drink but the other was Ricardo Mantalban’s 1975 Chrysler Cordoba.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @J-Dub:
    They have no actual policy proposals…by which I mean serious ideas that stand a chance of ever happening…so the only thing they have to talk about is nonsense like citizenship and footwear choices.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  8. jewelbomb says:

    …after the CNBC debacle I can’t say I blame them.

    It was a debacle only insofar as it revealed the candidates for the delusional, self-pitying whiners that they are. Sure, there were a few stupid questions asked, but this is true of every Republican debate in this election cycle. Given the fact that contemporary Republican policy positions amount to kicking the poor and denigrating blacks, Muslims ,and immigrants, I’m not really sure what CNBC could have done to make the candidates look better. More importantly, I pretty sure it’s not the debate moderators’ job to sanitize the mean-spirited and frankly unserious policy positions of a delusional slate of presidential aspirants.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @jewelbomb: I suspect they aren’t that upset w/ NBC. They’re doing this to support their “the press are unfair to us” routine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. Jeremy R says:

    By and large, the CNN debates have been quite good …

    Oh come on. They’ve included an outright partisan, Hugh Hewitt, as a moderator in every debate and allowed him to include right-wing characterizations and opinion in the premises of his questions to the candidates. He’s even gone as far as to literally applaud answers he thought were good for the Party like when Trump pledged not to run as a Third Party candidate.

    CNN should be embarrassed that the RNC has endorsed them as sufficiently malleable to their partisan political needs as to get so many of their debates, and the rest of the press corps sure aren’t showing much solidarity in trying to preserve their journalistic integrity against a politically party playing them against one another. I seem to recall the rest of the WHCA going to the mat in defense of Fox News when the Obama administration was attacking them as an extension of the Republican Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. charon says:

    Apparently, the RNC is sending the message that it has no real confidence in NBC News as an institution and, after the CNBC debacle I can’t say I blame them.

    What is the logic here? CNBC is organizationally separate and independent of NBC news.

    This action is just appeasement of the whining by the candidates and the conservative entertainment complex.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. charon says:

    The only really disgraceful part of the CNBC moderator performance was the lack of control of the clock and time management – but that was not what was unpopular with the pubbies.

    It is understandable and predictable that the GOP would prefer softballs to tough questions to better make the candidates look good. But the craven way that CNN is accommodating does not speak well of them as a putatively (ha ha) news organization.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Gustopher says:

    Interestingly, the RNC will continue its relationship for the February debate with Telemundo for a Spanish simulcast of the debate notwithstanding the fact that Telemundo is owned by NBC’s parent company. If nothing else, this is a sign that the party is at least partly aware of the value of trying to keep reaching out to the Latino community notwithstanding the fact that Donald Trump’s candidacy has largely been a walking, talking warning sign to that community that the Republican Party isn’t really the place for them

    The Republicans might be better off not doing a simulcast in Spanish. Some of the Latinos might not know how horrible they are, and might not believe the stories they have read — why ruin that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Tyrell says:

    NBC at one time was a respected and professional news organization. CBS also. But those were the days of Brinkley, Conkrite, Reasoner, Huntley, Murrow, and Severeid. The people they have now would not even be allowed on the lot back then.
    Now its all controlled info-pinion. CNN is a far cry from what Turner started. Most of its reporting is laughable. Most of the major news networks are controlled anyway.
    I follow local news a lot but it tends to be a lot of reporting of wrecks, weird animals, and the homecoming queen contest. Local tv news has too much “happy” talk, and fluff. The only time they get serious is when snow hits: two inches shuts everything down, and empties grocery store shelves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  15. grumpy realist says:

    Sarah Palin endorses Trump

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