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GOP Suspends Debate on NBCU’s Telemundo

The Republican National Committee has suspended plans to have a presidential primary debate on NBCUniversal’s Spanish-language network Telemundo.

In a letter to Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News, Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, cited Wednesday night’s debate on CNBC as the reason for the suspension.

“The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith," Priebus wrote. "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."


"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,' Priebus said.

NBC News said in a statement: “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 CNBC debate drew a criticism from other quarters as well.

"CNBC managed to please almost no one, except maybe the candidates who scored easy points by pummeling the questioners," wrote James Poniewozik in The New York Times. "The forum was raucous but not revealing, combative but not authoritative, chaotic but not interesting. And it ended in the nigh-impossible spectacle of conservatives accusing the Wall Street-focused business network of swinging the ax for the liberal media."

The debate drew 14 million viewers, a record for CNBC though not as many as prior debates on Fox News Channel and CNN attracted.

Losing a debate could be a financial setback for NBCU and Telemundo. With millions tuning in, ad rates have jumped for networks hosting presidential debates. CNBC sold ads at rates reaching $250,000 per spot, and NBCU executives reportedly called Wednesday the most profitable day in the network's history.

Read more, including the full text of the RNC's letter, at

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.