3rd UPDATE: Faced with the prospect of a boycott by this election cycle’s biggest star, CNBC has agreed to limit its October 28 Republican presidential debate to two hours. That star, Donald Trump broke the news during another of his needs-no-sleep tweetfests:
PREVIOUS 2nd UPDATE with Trump’s Fox News interview: Donald Trump says he’s threatening to boycott CNBC’s upcoming GOP debate for viewers’ sake, after learning CNBC wanted the debate to run longer than two hours and exclude candidates’ opening and closing statements. “The same thing is happening as happened with CNN,” he told Greta Van Susteren on her Fox News Channel show this evening. “They sold the commercials so much, and for so much money. It was going to be $4,000 for a 30-second commercial, and then it ended up being $200,000 and $250,000 for a 30-second commercial. And the same thing is happening now with CNBC. And what they’re trying to do, they’ve sold out all their commercials and they want to increase [the debate] by an hour.” Watch the interview above.
Trump noted that this week’s Dem debate on CNN was only two hours long (actually about 2 1/2) and yet “pretty boring.” Neither he nor Van Susteren mentioned that debate included just five candidates, while CNN’s main GOP debate packed 11 onstage taking questions
“I think it’s unfair to the viewers because it’s too much to watch. They’re doing it because they want to make more money,” Trump said of CNBC. “It’s unfair to the viewers. I don’t care. I could stand for five hours; I could stand for 10 hours.”
UPDATE with details: A GOP candidate just seized control of televised debates for the rest of the election cycle – just as if he was star of a TV show that became an overnight hit, averaging 24 million viewers on a ratings-starved network. Oh, wait….
Donald Trump, along with Ben Carson, sent a letter to CNBC (read it below) saying they will not participate in the network’s October 28 GOP debate unless CNBC promises the debate will run just two hours in length, including commercial breaks. The network also must agree to include opening and closing statements by all candidates onstage — which, in a GOP debate, could mean nearly a dozen statements at each end of the event.
“Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson do agree to a 120-minute debate that includes commercial breaks and opening and closing statements,” the candidates’ reps said in a letter to CNBC Washington bureau chief Matthew Cuddy. “Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson do not, and will not, agree to appear at a debate that is more than 120 minutes long including commercial breaks.
“Further, the debate must include opening and closing statements from all the candidates,” the candidates demanded.
According to the Trump and Carson campaigns, an “agenda” for the debate, sent to all of the candidates “by CNBC in partnership with the Republican National Committee (RNC), and reiterated on yesterday’s call, indicated that there would be ‘two hours of debate time’ plus four commercial breaks lasting between 2 and 4 minutes each. In addition, your Agenda stated there would not be any opening or closing statements and included a statement that the campaigns had agreed.”
The candidates made it clear in the letter they were not amused:
“To be clear, neither of our campaigns agreed to either the length you propose or your ban on opening or closing statements. In fact, neither of our campaigns were even consulted,” the two parties said in the letter first obtained by NBC News which is advising CNBC on the debate.
Earlier, Trump just made it very clear he intended to call the shots on this next, and all future, GOP debates of this election cycle. Via Twitter, he laid out his issues with CNBC’s plans for the October 28 debate to not give candidates time to make opening and closing statements. He’s also putting CNBC on notice he does not intend to stand through another three-hour debate:
It all started yesterday on a conference call with GOP candidates’ campaign reps and the network, to go over ground rules for the next debate. CNBC had no time set aside for the candidates’ opening and closing statements at the debate, but said in a document the campaigns had signed off on this, and the running length. Candidates polling in single digits objected, because, of course, their opening/closing statements might be the longest at-bat they got during the debate, if the previous two GOP debates were the template.
Trump’s rep supported them in their concern, though he hardly needs the “statement” time. The real estate mogul/reality TV star is the GOP front-runner and has taken credit for the record 23 million-24 million viewers who’ve tuned in for the first two GOP debates. Trump has gone so far as to say, jokingly but not really, the networks’ broadcasting the debates should be paying him for ginning up such big crowds, enabling them to sell ads at higher prices.
“Our goal is to host the most substantive debate possible,” CNBC says in a statement about the debate kerfuffle. “Our practice in the past has been to forego opening statements to allow more time to address the critical issues that matter most to the American people. We started a dialogue yesterday with all of the campaigns involved and we will certainly take the candidates’ views on the format into consideration as we finalize the debate structure.”
Trump also made clear in his tweets he’s hellbent, for which we are thankful, on making sure no GOP debate runs as long as did the last one. CNN’s GOP debate clocked in at three hours after which, when interviewed as to what he’d learned from the debate, he shot back, like he meant it to sting, that he’d learned he could stand in one place for three hours.
Here’s the full letter: