RNC Chair Cuts Ties With NBC News For February GOP Debate

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus / AP

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus sent a letter to NBC News Friday notifying that the GOP is "suspending" its partnership with the news outlet for the February primary debate because of the "offensive" handling of Wednesday night’s debate by CNBC, an NBC media property.

"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," Priebus wrote in a letter to Andrew Lack, the chairman of NBC News.

"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 RNC chair accused CNBC of handling the Boulder, Colorado, debate in "bad faith" and explained the decision to cut ties with NBC for the February debate was made to "ensure there is not a repeat performance."

CNBC’s handling of the debate, which was supposed to focus on the economy, jobs, and other domestic topics, has been widely panned. An article in CNN out Friday described the CNBC staffers as "shell-shocked" following the debate as negative reviews rolled in.

Priebus wrote that the debate did not focus on the promised topics and did not fairly offer candidates the opportunity to discuss the issues.

"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," Priebus wrote.

"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," the chairman continued, pointing to a query directed at businessman Donald Trump.

Priebus accused the CNBC debate moderators of flooding the candidates with "gotcha" questions to embarrass them.

"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 said the RNC still plans to host a debate in February in partnership with National Review but has until further notice suspended its work with NBC and its partners.

NBC called the decision "disappointing" in a press release Friday.

"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," the network said.