Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus -- as he works to address presidential candidates' frustration with the debate process in the wake of this week's CNBC face-off -- announced Friday that the RNC is "suspending the partnership" with NBC News for an upcoming February debate.
Priebus delivered the news -- the latest fallout from a controversial CNBC debate on Wednesday -- in a letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack. He noted that CNBC is one of their media properties, even if they do not exercise full editorial control over the network.
Complaining that the CNBC debate was "conducted in bad faith," Priebus said they need to ensure there is not a repeat performance and will suspend the partnership for a planned debate at the University of Houston on Feb. 26, 2016.
"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 said in the letter, while insisting they would still have a debate on Feb. 26.
NBC News, in a statement, called the move a "disappointing development" but said the network would "work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party."
The letter marked Priebus' latest effort to address candidates' concerns as some campaigns reportedly look at taking power away from the party when it comes to debates.
Most the candidates have complained about the CNBC moderators’ questions and tone at the third GOP debate. But some campaigns have challenged the RNC as well, and are planning to meet as early as Sunday to discuss their options for changing the debates.
Politico first reported that the campaigns are planning to huddle, and the RNC is not invited. Fox News confirms that representatives for the Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham campaigns are among those planning to attend.
Amid the rancor, Priebus made clear in an interview Thursday on Fox News’ “Hannity” that he understands the campaigns’ frustration and changes are coming. “I just can’t tell you how pissed off I am. … What was delivered [on Wednesday] was just nothing but a crap sandwich.”
Priebus told Fox News that aside from making sure “CNBC isn’t hosting and moderating another debate with our candidates,” the party is going to review “everything” about the debates.
“Every debate on the calendar is going to be reevaluated, reset -- look at the format, the moderators, everything,” Priebus said Thursday.
“We’re going to have meetings with all the candidates,” he said, adding they’ll do “everything possible to make sure that last night doesn’t happen again.”
But it’s unclear how willing all the campaigns are to work with the RNC at this stage. The next debate is set for Nov. 10, to be hosted by Fox Business Network in partnership with The Wall Street Journal.
Each campaign has its own distinct interests and complaints about the process. Aside from complaints that questions from CNBC moderators were biased and unfair, campaigns are concerned about everything from the amount of time they have to speak on stage to the criteria for qualifying for the main-stage and undercard events.
Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, cited some of those concerns in an interview with Fox News on Thursday. He said “it was very frustrating to be on stage.” He faulted the moderators for not sticking to the issues and promises to divvy time equally.
Alice Stewart, communications director for Huckabee, told Fox News the campaigns are indeed discussing possible changes.
“After the past few debate debacles, the campaigns are having conversations with each other as to how we can avoid another debate where the moderators become the story. That's the cardinal sin of journalism and the campaigns are sick and tired of it,” she said in a statement.
Santorum communications director Matt Beynon also confirmed the discussions, and said his campaign would like to see more debates and a different criteria system. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, has not yet qualified for the main-stage debates because of low poll numbers.
Politico reports that the upcoming planned meeting is being organized by the campaigns for Donald Trump, Carson, Graham and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, though others plan to attend.
Fox News’ Serafin Gomez and Jenny Buchholz contributed to this report.