The Republican National Committee announced on Monday that NBC News had officially been cut as the broadcast partner for the February debate. The debate is days before Super Tuesday on March 1. Instead of NBC, the RNC has awarded CNN the debate. CNN has held two of the prior debates, including one in December that focused on foreign policy.
CNN will partner with original conservative media partner National Review, CNN’s usual conservative media partner Salem Communications, and the Hispanic media channel Telemundo. Telemundo is owned by NBC Universal which also owns NBC News.
A statement from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said, “The Republican National Committee has decided to move forward without NBC’s participation in the February debate in Houston, Texas.”
CNN employees are likely celebrating their victory as the debates have been huge rating successes for the network. The highest rated event in CNN’s history was the GOP debate in September 2015.
The difference in reaction between the news organizations was striking. At the time of publication, CNN had an article related to the debate change on their front page, while NBC News had not published an article online.
The RNC had originally removed NBC as the debate partner following the CNBC debate in October. The debate was criticized by Republicans and journalists for lacking substance and focusing too much on questions that attacked the candidates. In response to the anger, the RNC suspended its relationship with NBC News. However, some criticized this move as NBC News does not oversee CNBC, they are two different groups in the NBC Universal organizational structure. The RNC admitted as much in their press release.
While CNN is likely celebrating, some were concerned over the precedent this move could set. InsideCableNews warned, “CNN should have refused the debate because it sets a bad precedent where political parties can shop their debates just to punish networks regardless of the validity of the ‘crime’.”