NBC bounced from future GOP debate over ‘gotcha’ questions
By NBP Staff | October 30, 2015, 14:53 EDT
WASHINGTON – NBC News got the boot from the Republican National Committee after presidential campaigns complained about Wednesday’s debate in Boulder, Colorado, hosted by its sibling network, CNBC.
“Questions were inaccurate or downright offensive,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a letter Friday to Andrew Lack, the NBC News chairman. “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.”
Preibus was referring to a question posed to Donald Trump, the New York developer and reality television star. But he also complained about the questions in general and the tone they set for the debate, which was supposed to focus on economic issues and fiscal policy.
Instead, the RNC boss said, “CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.”
NBC News called it a “disappointing development,” the Associated Press reported. In a statement, the network said: “We will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party.”
Some of the candidates on the stage that night criticized the CNBC moderators about the queries they posed. Following the debate, leading candidates including Trump and Dr. Ben Carson said they would be talking to party leaders about debate formats and moderators. The next forum is planned for Nov. 10 in Milwaukee, in partnership with the Fox Business Channel and the Wall Street Journal. Other network sponsorsfor future debates include ABC, CBS and CNN. None of the other networks is mentioned in Preibus’s letter to Lack.
“The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith,” Preibus said in informing Lack that it was out as a partner in a Feb. 26 forum it was to cohost with National Review. “We need to ensure there is not a repeat performance.”
The Wednesday debate was the most-watched show ever broadcast by the business-news channel, drawing about 14 million viewers and beating out the second game of Major League Baseball’s World Series, which got 13.7 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. CNN reported that advertisers had been asked to pay as much as $250,000 for some 30-second time slots during the debate, compared with typically prime-time rates of just a few thousand dollars.
The moderators – Becky Quick, John Harwood and Carl Quintanilla – drew widespread criticism for their handling of the forum and some of the questions they asked.
“It bordered on ridicule,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Times in reference to the question Trump was asked. She said such a query “invites the candidate to dismiss the question instead of answering it.”
Preibus left the door open to NBC regaining its role in the February event, however, describing his action as a suspension and vowing to hold the debate anyway, with co-host National Review, but only in consultation with the candidates’ campaigns. He told Lack he would “be in touch.”