RNC Member: Debate Cancellation Is ‘NBC’s Own Fault’

By Barbara Hollingsworth | January 18, 2016 | 6:29pm EST
Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell. (Leadership Institute)

(CNSNews.com) – Several conservative activists told CNSNews.com that they support the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) reported decision not to air its upcoming presidential debate on NBC, including a Republican national committeeman who said that “it’s NBC’s own fault.”

Breitbart News first reported that members of RNC’s Debate Committee voted unanimously on Monday to sever the party’s “business relationship” with NBC News--which was planning to air the party's February 26th presidential debate in Houston--due to concerns over CNBC’s handling of the debate it moderated and broadcast in October.

“I’m not surprised. It’s NBC’s own fault,” Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute and one of the longest-serving Republican national committeemen, told CNSNews.com.

“The decision not to partner with NBC is confirmation that there was a general revulsion over the unfairness of the CNBC debate, which seemed designed to cause maximum damage to Republican presidential candidates last fall.

“That debate had hostile news people posing as ‘moderators’ when they were anything but moderate,” Blackwell added. “I’m reasonably certain that this has the full support of the RNC. I don't know of anybody who's unhappy with this.”

Other conservatives also voiced their approval.

Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring. (LFR)

“NBC has demonstrated again and again that it is no longer committed to balanced, objective journalism. It has become a house organ for the Democratic Party.  Even the peacock in its logo only looks to its left," Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, told CNSNews.com.

[RNC Chairman] "Reince Priebus and the RNC are right to exclude them from the presidential candidate debates,” Hanna said.

“This was an understandable reaction to the previous CNBC debate which focused on a cult of personality, and asked silly questions, a spokesman for Adam Brandon, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, told CNSNews.com. “There was even one question about fantasy football.

“Republican primary voters want to hear about how to grow the economy and roll back the excesses of the executive branch. We need a debate that asks the candidates tough questions about policy. A network that doesn’t take its job seriously should not be able to host such things.”

But not all conservatives agreed.

“I actually disagree with the decision,” conservative radio talk show host Erick Erickson, who writes for The Resurgent, told CNSNews.com.

“Yes, I think the subsequent commentary that would be on MSNBC would be terrible, but I think Chuck Todd has shown himself capable of being fair in the debate and, more importantly, it has denied Republican activists the opportunity to see their candidates again gang up on and gut a debate moderator should the questioning go left and be biased.  That alone makes these debates wonderfully entertaining.”

Blackwell said that the RNC became involved in scheduling and negotiating terms for the presidential primary debates after the 2012 elections, when a number of candidates complained that the 23 debates held during that election cycle were too many, but that they felt obliged to participate in all of them because their opponents would be there.

However, there were many complaints after the third RNC-scheduled debate last October, which was moderated by CNBC’s John Harwood, Becky Quick and Carl Quintanilla.  

Former Attorney General Ed Meese characterized that debate as “a verbal shooting gallery set up by CNBC, with the targets the Republican candidates and the shooters their biased antagonists from the press….Whoever selected the ‘moderators’ should be fired and the RNC leaders who allowed it should be condemned,” Meese told CNSNews.com.

Former Attorney General Ed Meese. (Heritage Foundation)

 Last fall, Priebus wrote a letter to Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News, informing him 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."

Noting that CNBC’s handing of the first debate “was conducted in bad faith,” Priebus said that “CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.

“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,” Priebus said.

NBC did not return CNSNews.com's request for a comment.

MRC Store