How badly did the CNBC moderators shoot themselves (and their network) in the foot?

My view: the debate debacle was career-limiting for the moderators, a serious blow to CNBC’s brand image and competitive standing, and a financial hit to NBC.

There seems to be a broad consensus across the political spectrum that the CNBC debate was a disaster.

Even a leaked internal CNBC email called it a train wreck.

NBC execs admonished “news” folks at NBS, MSNBC and CNBC not to “pile on”.



Let’s do a quick damage assessment …


For the moderators: The debate constituted a “Career Limiting Transaction”

At one of my prior-life employers, there was an acronym bandied about: CLT.  That stood for Career Limiting Transaction.

Stated simply, it was a mistake that was so visible and so egregious that it was likely to disqualify a person from any future promotional considerations.

My opinion: the moderators committed multiple CLTs during the debate.

As a group, they flaunted their disdain for the candidates and their political biases.  They asked demeaning, sophomoric questions, and weren’t prepped to handle the blow-back – either factually or emotionally.

Becky Quick was clearly under-prepped and over her head.

I almost felt sorry for her when she  tried to zing Trump, only to have him bat the ball right back.

When she didn’t have a source to quote, she asked him: “Do you know where I might have read that?”.

Then Trump said: “I don’t know, it’s you guys who write that stuff, not me”.


Forced into submission, she replied: “I’m sorry (for asking the question)”.

Talk about diminished credibility.


Carl Quintanilla’s biggest sin was trying to be too cute by half, and having that backfire on him.

The tip-off question: “What are you weaknesses?” was appropriately ignored by the candidates who just went into their stump speech talking points.

Huckabee’s answer was the best: “I don’t know, maybe you should direct the question to my wife.”

Bad start.

His show-stopper was the fantasy football question.

Probably just intended to loosen stuff up, it came across as totally inappropriate and gave Christie a chance to smack him with the “Are you kidding me?” riff.

The fantasy football question will be Quintanilla’s image-buster.

Whenever he tries to conduct a serious interview, folks will be chuckling about fantasy football


The absolute worst was John Harwood.

He’s the dude who asked Trump about his “cartoon version of a campaign” and blatantly lied when he accused Rubio of having a tax plan that advantages rich folks more than poor folks.

Rubio disagreed and Harwood kept arguing with him.

Here’s the rub.

A couple of week’s ago, Harwood had  “reported” the same allegation and had to issue a personal retraction:


Proof positive that he knew it was a lie, but launched the grenade anyway.

For deep detail see CNBC’s John Harwood Is Still Refusing To Admit He Was Wrong   

Harwood absolutely knew that what he was arguing was false – he’d even admitted as such in writing – yet he raised the point and argued it as if it were true.

My question:  why hasn’t Harwood already been suspended or fired for blatantly lying to influence a presidential election?

If CNBC doesn’t terminate him, the network loses any credibility it may still have.

Which leads to a bigger problem.


For CNBC: Opening the door for Fox Business

The debate pulled over 14 million viewers.

If the moderators had been slick, some of the 13.8 million who don’t regularly watch CNBC might have started watching.

It wouldn’t have taken many to have a huge impact.

Believe it or not, CNBC’s daytime audience is only a couple of hundred viewers. Source

Technical note: CNBC’s audience swells to about half-a-million at night for Shark Tank and The Profit

I think it was a blown opportunity.

What serious investors want to get their news from a bunch of low credibility business haters?

Before the debates, the moderators hard left positions were being stored in the closet.

At the debate, they went on full display.

And, oh yeah … the next debate is being hosted by Fox Business.

My prediction: They’ll make the CNBC crew look like rank amateurs.

Watch for FBN to start overtaking CNBC …


For NBC: Turning a big gain into a bigger loss.

Reportedly, CNBC rolled in the advertising revenues.

They were reportedly charging $250k per commercial slot – astronomical when compared to CNBC’s usual rate card – and, there were plenty of commercial slots.

Fat city, right?  Train wreck or no train wreck..

The problem: A high likelihood that the RNC will pull the debate currently scheduled Next Spring on NBC.


Whatever profit gains came from the CNBC escapade, the lost revenue at NBC will certainly dwarf it.

Couple that with an audience drift from CNBC to Fox Business.

Talk about grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory ….



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