University of Houston may not get to host a GOP presidential debate after all, and it's all thanks to Sen. Ted Cruz.
On Wednesday Cruz, a junior senator from Texas and very ambitious presidential wannabe, dodged a question during a CNBC GOP presidential primary debate and turned it into a magnificent diatribe against the debate questions that get asked, CNBC's approach to the Republican presidential primary debates and the liberal media as a whole. Cruz managed to both dodge an uncomfortable question about his divisive approach to politicking while also decrying the liberal media and insulting his fellow GOP candidates in the process.
He also touched a nerve in the Republican Party with his claims that GOP candidates are not treated as well as Democratic candidates by the media types who moderate these debates.
It was an impressive display — we were honestly amazed by his debating chops — but it might have just cost the University of Houston the big GOP presidential primary debate. And this isn't just any old debate; it's the one scheduled to be nationally televised right before voters hit the polls to vote in the primaries on Super Tuesday. So yeah, it's a big deal that UH scored this debate and it will be a pretty huge deal if it ends up losing it.
When Cruz accused the media of unfairness, the entire Republican Party picked up the accusation. On Friday the Republican National Committee announced that it was suspending its partnership with NBC for the Houston debate. Since there may not be a partnership, the RNC won't be kicking in funding for the planned GOP debate on February 26, which has raised questions about whether the UH debate will happen at all.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote a letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack informing Lack of the RNC decision that was publicly issued Friday. "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 stated. "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."
Priebus continued, accusing CNBC of promising certain things would happen with the debate last Wednesday — that it would focus on key issues and that the candidates would be given opening questions that dealt with economic or financial matters and that things would be handled so that every candidate got equal time to speak — but didn't deliver. Instead, Priebus claims that moderators for the CNBC debate asked questions that were either "inaccurate or downright offensive."
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Thus, the RNC has exited stage left. So far, this is just a temporary suspension of the RNC/NBC partnership, but if the rift isn't repaired, that could spell the end of the UH presidential debate.
Still, NBC officials are keeping a happy spin on things. NBC News issued a statement shortly after the RNC announcement sounding confident that this will all be sorted out. "This is a disappointing development," the network said. "However, along with our debate broadcast partners at Telemundo, we will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party."
UH officials are also taking an optimistic stance on things. "We're actively monitoring the situation between the RNC and NBC News/Telemundo regarding the February 26 Republican presidential candidates' debate," Vice Chancellor/Vice President of University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations Richie C. Hunter stated in a release issued Friday afternoon. "The University of Houston is proud to be selected to host this important national conversation, and looks forward to the spotlight the debate will bring to our community and the important issues at hand."
It's still unclear if a venue change is on the table.