Republicans Should Just Say No to NBC! They Aren’t Fair Debate Moderators

June 12th, 2023 1:34 PM

With more candidates jumping into the GOP race last week, decisions on which news outlets get to host the Republican primary debates should be coming soon. 

Back on June 2, Axios reported NBC, led by Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, made a hard pitch to the RNC (back in February) to moderate one of the GOP primary debates to be presumably broadcast on NBC, MSNBC or CNBC.

However, the Axios story also reported Florida Republican Governor Ron Desantis has “been pushing back against” NBC hosting a GOP debate and with good reason given “MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell acknowledged using ‘imprecise’ language….that implied DeSantis didn’t want slavery taught in schools.” 

It’s not just DeSantis who should be wary of NBC unfairly rigging the debates. Every GOP presidential hopeful may want to think twice before accepting an invite to an NBC produced debate. 

A review of the MRC’s archives shows a consistent and clear pattern of slanted questions to Republican candidates. 

Any 2023 debate is sure to include current White House correspondent and incoming host of NBC’s Meet the Press Kristen Welker. When Welker moderated a 2020 presidential debate she hit then-incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Biden with tough questions on immigration, race issues and crime — but all from the left:

Welker to Trump: 

“Mr. President, your administration separated children from their parents at the border, at least 4000 kids. You’ve since reversed your zero tolerance policy, but the United States can’t locate the parents of more than 500 children. So how will these families ever be reunited?”

Welker to Biden: 

“The Obama administration did fail to deliver immigration reform, which had been a key promise during the administration. It also presided over record deportations as well as family detentions at the border before changing course. So why should voters trust you with an immigration overhaul now?”

Welker to Trump: 

“We’re going to continue on the issue of race. Mr. President, you’ve described the Black Lives Matter movement as a symbol of hate. You’ve shared a video of a man chanting white power to millions of your supporters. You’ve said that Black professional athletes exercising their first amendment rights should be fired. What do you say to Americans who say that kind of language from a president is contributing to a climate of hate and racial strife?”

Welker to Biden: 

“Crime bills that you supported in the 80s and 90s contributed to the incarceration of tens of thousands of young Black men who had small amounts of drugs in their possession. They are sons, they are brothers, they are fathers, they’re uncles whose families are still to this day, some of them, suffering the consequences. So speak to those families, why should they vote for you?

That was bad, but the most obnoxious moderator behavior came in the GOP primary debates. These should be forums for Republican voters to learn about differing candidate positions before they vote in their state primaries, but instead NBC’s moderators turned these events into their own personal platforms to smack down GOP politicians and their conservative policies. 

The following is a compilation of the agenda-driven, one-sided and just plain rude questions NBC’s debate moderators have asked GOP presidential candidates over the years:



A look at NBC’s debate moderator performances in the GOP primaries (going all the way back to 2007) shows a decades-long pattern of questions designed to antagonize, embarrass or mock Republican candidates, their policies and supporters. 





CNBC White House correspondent John Harwood questions to Donald Trump:

“Mr. Trump, you’ve done very well in this campaign so far by promising to....make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others....Let’s be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”....

“I talked to economic advisers who have served presidents of both parties. They said that you have as much chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms?”

CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla to Sen. Marco Rubio:

“This one is for Senator Rubio. You’ve been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s....You’re skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or at least finish what you start?”

CNBC anchor Becky Quick to Dr. Ben Carson:

“Let’s talk about taxes. You have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes, and – I’ve looked at it – and this is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I’ve had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this. If you were to took a 10 percent tax, with the numbers right now in total personal income, you’re gonna come in with bring in $1.5 trillion. That is less than half of what we bring in right now. And by the way, it’s gonna leave us in a $2 trillion hole. So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?”

Becky Quick to Rubio:

“Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you’ve had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally inter-mingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought....In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy?”

Harwood to Gov. Mike Huckabee:

“The leading Republican candidate – when you look at the average national polls right now – is Donald Trump. When you look at him, do you see someone him with the moral authority to unite the country?”





NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams to Gov. Rick Perry:

“Governor Perry, we’re going to begin with you. You’re the newcomer here on stage, you probably saw this coming a mile away. You have touted your state’s low taxes, the lack of regulation, tough tort reform, as the recipe for job growth in the Lone Star state, but Texas ranks last among those who have completed high school, there are only eight other states with more living in poverty, no other state has more working at or below the minimum wage, so is that the kind of answer all Americans are looking for?”

Williams to Rep. Ron Paul:

“You’re known as the absolutist in the bunch, someone who has consistently opposed federal government from having any role, and I think by your definition, that isn’t explicitly laid out in the Constitution, so this makes people curious. Is there a line with you, where do you draw it? Does this include things like making cars safe, making medicine safe, air traffic control, controlling the jets above our heads?”

Politico’s John Harris to Perry:

“Governor Perry, you clearly don’t like the Massachusetts plan as an example for other states, but Massachusetts has nearly universal health insurance – it’s first in the country. In Texas, about a quarter of the people don’t have health insurance. That's 50 out of 50, dead last. Sir, it’s pretty hard to defend dead last.”

Williams to Sen. Rick Santorum:

“Senator Santorum, on another front, you’re a devout Catholic, you’ve always said that you cannot, will not, place it aside in your role in elected public life. In fact, you thought President Kennedy, the first to be elected President, did so a little bit too much with his own religion. Having said that, the Catholic faith, has as a part of it, caring for the poor. One in seven people in this country, now, qualifies as poor. Where do the poor come in, where do they place in this party, on this stage, in a Santorum administration?”

Williams to Perry: 

“Governor Perry, a somewhat related question. I’ll quote the Pew Research Center. They recently found white households have 20 times the median wealth of black households in the United States. How would you address that question, that problem, as President?”

Harris to Perry: 

“Governor Perry, you said you wrote the book Fed Up to start a conversation, congratulations, it has certainly done that in recent weeks. In the book, you call Social Security the best example of a program that quote ‘violently tossed aside any respect for state’s rights.’ We understand your position that it’s got funding problems now, I’d like you to explain your view that Social Security was wrong right from the beginning.”

Williams to Paul:

“Let me ask you something else, it’s related in a way, it has to do with Mother Nature. Before the broadcast, Senator Santorum’s got flooding today in Pennsylvania, Governor Perry is back from the wildfires out east, category one storm laid waste to entire areas, there’s standing water tonight in Paterson, New Jersey, many of the towns around where I live, eight days without power. We had people eating in outdoor and public parks because the supermarkets were closed down. Question is, federal aid, something like FEMA, if you object to what it’s become, how it’s run. Your position is to remove it, take it away, abolish it, what happens in its absence?”

Williams to Perry:

“Governor Perry, you can’t have much of a workforce without a basis of education. As you know, your state ranks among the worst in the country in high school graduation rates, as we established. Yet, you recently signed a budget cut for billions in education funding, you pushed for greater cuts than were in the budget that the legislature passed. You’ve said that education is a top priority, but explain cutting it the way you did, please?”

Williams to Gov. Mitt Romney:

“Governor Romney — you often hear this figure, 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, and the promised effort underway soon, at least, in Washington to correct that. Isn’t some of this argument semantics and won't the effort to correct that be a defacto tax increase?”

Williams to Perry:

“Question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times — [ audience cheers and applause ] — have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent? What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?”

Williams to Paul:

“Congressman Paul, a long time ago, a fellow Texan of yours, a young student teacher in Cotulla, Texas, was horrified to see young kids coming into the classroom hungry, some of them with distended bellies because of hunger. He made a vow that if he had anything to do about it the government would provide meals, hot meals at best, in schools. The young student teacher, of course, later went on to be President Lyndon Johnson. Do you think that is any more — providing nutrition in schools for children — a role of the federal government?”



Politico Executive Editor Jim VandeHei to Gov. Mitt Romney: 

“Daniel Dekovnick from Walnut Creek, California wants to know, ‘What do you dislike most about America?’” 

VandeHei to Mayor Rudy Giuliani: 

“Bradley Winter of New York would like to know if there’s anything you learned, or regret, during your time as Mayor in your dealings with the African-American community?”

VandeHei to Gov. Mike Huckabee:

“Thousands of reputable scientists have concluded, with almost certainty, that human activity is responsible for the warming of the Earth. Do you believe global warming exists?” 

VandeHei to Rep. Tom Tancredo: 

“Will you work to protect women’s rights, as in fair wages and reproductive choice?”

MSNBC host Chris Matthews to all the candidates on the debate stage: 

“Would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?”


The pattern of bias is clear and established. Republican presidential hopefuls expecting NBC to change its tune for the 2023 GOP primary debates would be foolhardy at best.