MSNBC/NBC News Producers Ordered Not To ‘Pile On’ ‘Shell-Shocked’ CNBC In Post-Debate Coverage

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Oct 30, 2015 7:45 PM
MSNBC/NBC News Producers Ordered Not To ‘Pile On’ ‘Shell-Shocked’ CNBC In Post-Debate Coverage

The fallout from CNBC’s Republican debate Wednesday night is still ongoing with pretty much everyone noting the network’s poor debate performance. More than a few publications listed them as the night’s biggest loser, with horrible moderators, who came off as unprepared and rude. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway wrote a lengthy post on why moderator John Harwood shouldn’t have been there in the first place. In her appearance on "Hardball," she reiterated the unpreparedness part, along with the observation that Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla displayed an “inability to understand what questions are of interest to the voters.”

In the end, it was reported that some of the CNBC crew was “embarrassed” and “shell-shocked” from the reaction to their debate, as they headed back to New York. Even though CNN’s Brian Stetler reported that it was the most-watched program (and probably its most profitable) in the network’s 30-year history. Moreover, he added that MSNBC/NBC News producers were ordered not to “pile on” the moderator controversy in their post-debate coverage:

If there was introspection in the air during the overnight flight, the network isn't saying. The only statement CNBC released was one sentence right after the debate, around the same time the RNC joined candidates in condemning the debate questioning and said CNBC should be "ashamed."

"People who want to be President of the United States should be able to answer tough questions," CNBC spokesman Brian Steel said in an email.

There certainly wasn't much introspection on the air Thursday. Quick and co-host Joe Kernen were back in New York for the 6 am start of the network's morning show "Squawk Box," which covered debate highlights but not the media controversy. (Marco Rubio and Chris Christie did share their criticisms during interviews, however.)

As the day went on, there was less and less talk about the debate on CNBC. According to one of the employees, producers were given internal guidance to move on.

At CNBC's sister news outlets MSNBC and NBC News, producers were advised not to "pile on" the moderator controversy, according to people there.

When it came to production of the debate, CNBC was on its own. The network collaborates with NBC News, but it operates independently. In NBC's halls on Thursday, there was chatter about whether the debate would've benefited if NBC's political reporters and managers had been involved.

The Republican National Committee suspended its partnership with NBC, who planned to host the February debate, as a result of this circus.

Stetler added that some CNBC staffers who spoke to him blamed CNBC president Mark Hoffman for the fiasco that unfolded, though the network appears to have moved on, as evidenced by the lack of a debrief meeting that following Thursday. By the numbers, the debate was watched by a record amount of people for the network, and they made a lot of money.