RNC Throws Telling Hissy Fit Over Boulder GOP Debate

UPDATE: If that’s not enough for you:


Sen. Ted Cruz bashes the media in Boulder Wednesday night.

Sen. Ted Cruz bashes the media in Boulder Wednesday night.

In a letter today to NBC chairman Andrew Lack, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus (we think we’ve got those i’s and e’s right) announces that the GOP is “suspending the partnership” with NBC to broadcast another presidential debate on their network, after the “downright offensive” questions from CNBC debate moderators in Boulder Wednesday night:

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 CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith. We understand that NBC does not exercise full editorial control over CNBC’s journalistic approach. However, the network is an arm of your organization, and we need to ensure there is not a repeat performance.

CNBC billed the debate as one that would focus on “the key issues that matter to all voters—job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy.” That was not the case. 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. 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.

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

I have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. However, I also expect the media to host a substantive debate on consequential issues important to Americans. CNBC did not.

Reince Priebus.

Reince Priebus.

Since Wednesday night’s debate, the conservative message machine has worked overtime to vilify CNBC and the debate’s moderators. It should be noted that some of the criticism of the moderator’s performance does not have partisan motives–like when moderator Becky Quick apologized to Donald Trump for a “misquote” that, as it turns out, wasn’t a misquote at all. For us, the real problem with this post-debate assault on the debate moderators can be summed up in this now-famous exchange between moderator Carl Quintanilla and Sen. Ted Cruz:

CARL: Senator Cruz, Congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown, and calm financial markets that fear another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?

CRUZ: You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media.

This is not a cage match. And if you look at the questions: Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues … and, Carl, I’m not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, Which of you is more handsome and why? And let me be clear —

CARL: You have 30 seconds left to answer, should you choose to do so.

CRUZ: Let me be clear. The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. And nobody watching at home believes that any of the moderators have any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions that are being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other. It should be what are your substantive —

CARL: I want the record to reflect, I asked you about the debt limit and got no answer. [Pols emphasis]

This outburst from Sen. Cruz is what started the entire backlash against the CNBC moderators of Wednesday’s debate. But do you notice how it was a perfectly reasonable question that Cruz avoided answering? Nobody even remembers Quintanilla’s question about the major budget agreement between outgoing GOP Speaker John Boehner and the Obama administration today–only that Cruz used this moment to launch into a tirade of what appeared to be scripted media bashing.

You know, instead of answering the question.

Folks, we’re not going to defend every interaction from these debate moderators, but other than losing control of the debate repeatedly as this slate of GOP candidates jousted with them and among themselves, there was absolutely nothing about CNBC’s production or emceeing that merited this ridiculous scold of a letter from RNC chairman Priebus. CNBC doesn’t owe the RNC or these candidates an apology for any question they were asked–and it’s ridiculous to suggest that presidential candidates should not be able to respond thoughtfully to any question asked of them. If they can’t do that, maybe they shouldn’t be running for President.

Bottom line: when you get past the bluster, there’s a reason why Republicans, far more than Democrats, invest tremendous time and effort into discrediting the so-called “lamestream media.” There’s a reason why journalism is consistently denigrated in the most sweeping terms by one side of the American political spectrum, even though both sides are frustrated by media coverage from time to time.

It comes back to not wanting to answer, perhaps not being able to answer, perfectly reasonable questions.


17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlue says:

    I think the only way the GOP can hold their coalition together is to make them all hate and fear rational information. This is the product of years of grooming, like child molesters do to kids, to shift their perception of reality.

    Unfortunately, it's working

  2. Republican 36 says:

    The RNC is over reacting to the last debate but some of the questions were ridiculous and poorly thought out by the moderator and the other reporters. If anything, by asking those questions, they played into the Republican narrative, false but nonetheless there, that the media is biased against Republicans.

    • DaftPunk says:

      Reality is biased against Republicans.

    • Davie says:

      Which reminds me of when Eli Stokols earnestly tried to pry the truth out of Cory Gardner, and also failed.  Cory successfully would flip the question around and tag Mark Udall's name to the behavior Cory himself was exhibiting — "running away from his record, trying to change the subject …"


      And repeating his talking points so that the listener only heard the names of Cory’s opponents (Obama, Pelosi, Udall) instead getting within 10 miles of addressing the point of Eli’s question, no matter how many times Eli would repeat it. Cory simply repeated and recycled all his talking points, ensuring that Obama, Pelosi and Udall’s names were liberally sprinkled in his filibuster responses.

    • BlueCat says:

      I agree. The ridiculous questions give these idiots cover, a perfect escape route.  And they are asked for potential entertainment/fireworks value, not to tell us anything we need to know about the candidates. For that matter the wall to wall coverage that the media has provided Trump from the beginning for the entertainment/ratings value really has made the media a giant PAC for Trump. They pretty much created Trump as a serious presidential candidate. 

      The RNC wouldn't have any credibility complaining about the moderators if the moderators didn't keep asking them to respond to one another's petty insults or the equivilant of the old "if you were a tree what kind of a tree would you be" bull.

      It's not an either/or thing. The candidates and RNC can be completely cynical about throwing anti-main stream media red meat to the base because it's a great look over there and the base loves it and the media can be pathetic infotainment hucksters. 

  3. Davie says:

    Is there a school where they teach young Republicans how to lie with a straight face?

    Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you’ve had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally inter-mingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year, you liquidated a $68,000 retirement fund. That’s something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy. What do you say?

    RUBIO: Well, you just – you just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents, and I’m not gonna waste 60 seconds detailing them all.

    Discredited attacks? As Florida Republican Joe Scarborough said Thursday morning:

    “Marco just flat-out lied to the American people, there,” he continued. “And I was stunned that the moderators didn’t stop there and go, ‘Wait a second, these are court records. What are you talking about?’”


  4. The realist says:

    Well, there's just one important thing here, and that's the fact that CU Boulder got a lot of good publicity out of this event . . . .

  5. notaskinnycook says:

    Didn't Caribou Barbie make that "lame-stream media" comment after she was asked about the last book she'd read and she sat there looking like a deer caught in headlights?

  6. Duke Cox says:

    I am eagerly anticipating the Republican debate featuring Hannity, Levin, and Limbaugh as moderators….oh please, please, please.. Let Cruz, Carson, and Co. have their way..good article in the Nation on the subject…but I haven't figured out how to cut and paste with this device. Sorry..no linky..

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