Apparently still seething over CNBC’s much-criticized handling of a GOP presidential debate in October, the Republican National Committee has canceled NBC News’s sponsorship of the high-profile debate scheduled for late February in Houston.
After a unanimous vote on Monday by the Republican Party’s 20-member debate committee, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced that the Feb. 25 debate will instead be carried by CNN from “Houston at a location to be decided.”
Priebus’s statement added that the Latino-oriented network Telemundo—like CNBC, a Comcast-owned corporate sibling of NBC News—will continue as a partner in the new arrangement, along with “conservative partners” National Review and Salem Communications.
Spokespeople for NBC News didn’t respond to an email seeking comment about the cancellation, which essentially punishes NBC News for a situation over which it had no control or influence and deprives the network of potentially highly rated, commercially lucrative programming.
In the corporate structure of NBC Universal, the CNBC business channel is not connected to the network news division—a point stressed by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack when, in an interview last month with The Daily Beast, he expressed “cautious optimism” that NBC News would end up keeping the right to broadcast the debate, originally schedule for Feb. 26.
“I think it’s going to happen,” Lack predicted. “We’ve had a couple of conversations,” he added, referring to Priebus, who personally gave him the bad news on Monday, according to an RNC source.
The CNBC debate—which prompted a near revolt among operatives of the various Republican presidential campaigns who complained bitterly about the negative tone of the moderators’ questions, “had nothing to do with anybody at NBC News,” Lack said, “and we felt badly about the situation. CNBC is not part of NBC News…Shit happens.”