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RNC and CNBC: Just Another Example of Political Theater and False Outrage

by Jay Stooksberry, published

The Republicans are revolting – in both senses of the word.

Following the most recent GOP debate, the Republican National Committee suspended its relationship with NBC News. Citing a lack of “substantive debate on consequential issues” and claiming the moderators focused on “gotcha questions,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus expressed his party’s discontent regarding last Wednesday’s debate.

Considering the outrage of the GOP, this begs the question: If they can’t handle a debate, how are any of them expected to handle being President of the United States? Understandably, some of the questioning was bogus ("What is your greatest weakness?" Really?), but lashing out only demonstrates how flappable in the face of adversity one is.

Do they think trade negotiations or diplomacy talks will be any easier? Nothing says "please trust me with the nuclear launch codes" like "don't ask me tough questions anymore." If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the White House’s kitchen.

The truth of the matter is, no matter what you think of the current president or those who preceded him, the job is hard – so the path leading toward the position is deservedly onerous. The expectation of avoiding scrutiny while being interviewed for the biggest job in the United States is childish and naïve.

Furthermore, this move by the RNC has little to do with how just one debate transpired. The first GOP debate, hosted on the friendly home turf of Fox News, boasted

a viewership of 24 million people. (Keep in mind, Trump threw a hissy fit during this one too because Megyn Kelly was too hard on him. Starting to notice a trend?)

During the debate hosted by CNN back in September, approximately 23 million people tuned in to watch. For last week’s debate, 14 million watched – nearly a 40% drop from the previous debate.

In all fairness, the last debate was competing with the World Series, but RNC leadership most certainly made note of the diminishing interest in their party.

In an effort to drum up interest in a debate-weary public, the RNC managed to stir the pot with Priebus’ letter. And nothing rallies the troops of the Republican base like a good ol’ fashioned battle with the “liberal media.”

Conservative radio and publications sounded the horns. Headlines like “Yes, liberal media bias is real” (Washington Examiner) and “Encyclopedia Example of Liberal Media Bias” (Newsbusters) were all over the newsfeed. Sean Hannity proclaimed that this debate “is going down in history” as one of the worst nights for the mainstream media.

Such a claim of bias would be easily leveraged against the likes of MSNBC, but not so much with CNBC. CNBC was once labeled “too pro-business.” The network is also home to Jim Cramer (who once claimed Obama was responsible for the “greatest wealth destruction” by any American President) and Larry Kudlow (an economist and commentator who openly endorses Donald Trump’s tax proposal).

In fact, it was the on-air “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” rant by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli that launched the Tea Party.

Regardless of the false accusation of bias, it’s always the perception that matters most – and it makes for great spectacle. Donald Trump scored a big hit when he refuted Becky Quick’s claim that he was critical of Mark Zuckerberg’s stance on immigration reform. The audience laughed and applauded when Trump responded, “You people write this stuff?”

Turns out the press didn’t write "this stuff" at all, since the critique could be found – pause for dramatic effect – on the Trump campaign website!

Some of the candidates even financially benefitted from this misconception. The following day, emails declaring “war on the liberal media” were blasted out to supporters, who were openly solicited for donations to help win this “war.” Ted Cruz, the most vocally dissatisfied candidate during the debate, raised $1.1 million in the first 22 hours following the debate.

The current rift between CNBC and the RNC is nothing more than pure political theater designed to incite false rage, energize the GOP base, and fill campaign coffers. This strategic spectacle is working swimmingly for the Republicans.

Photo Source: AP

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