Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Media critic

In his closing remarks at Wednesday night’s CNBC debate, Donald Trump felt, as usual, like patting himself on the back. Citing a prolonged set of negotiations among the Republican presidential candidates, the Republican National Committee and CNBC, Trump portrayed himself as the guy who shrunk the debate. In his final statement of the night, he stated that CNBC had been planning a debate of three or three-and-a-half hours. Then he and Dr. Ben Carson protested, to the benefit of all. “We called in, we said that’s it, we’re not doing it. They lost a lot of money, everybody said it couldn’t be done. Everybody said it was going to be three hours, three-and-a-half [hours], including them. And in about two minutes, I renegotiated it down to two hours so we could get the hell out of here.”

Host John Harwood wasn’t having it: “Just for the record, the debate was always going to be two hours.” Trump responded, “That is absolutely not right.”

How to break this disagreement? By going to the fossil record. Here’s a Sept. 30 press release from CNBC announcing the terms of the debate. The money line comes in the middle of the release: “Those candidates will take the stage at 8PM ET for two hours of debate.”

Bold text added for a reason: Cable news press releases are careful with their language. “Two hours of debate” was CNBC’s way of saying that the actual debate time — that is, the time that the candidates spent chatting onstage — was to be two hours, meaning that commercial breaks and other nonsense would be in addition to that allotment. Pressure from Trump and fellow candidate Dr. Ben Carson reportedly succeeded in pushing CNBC back on that plan. But they were arguing over about 10-15 minutes, in all. An CNBC spokesperson confirmed the initial plan was for 2 hours of debate time plus 14 minutes of commercial time. Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer confirmed in mid-October that the discussion centered on “[t]wo hours of debate time versus two hours total.”