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Priebus to CNN and NBC: Scrap Hillary Movies or No Debates in 2016

by Bobby McGuire
Contributor
Monday Aug 5, 2013
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In a pair of strongly worded letters to CNN and NBC regarding plans by both networks to independently produce films on the life of Hillary Clinton, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus drew a line in the sand in front of the the pair of media giants -- either scrap plans for the Clinton films or face some empty podiums for the 2016 debates.

According to a report on Breitbart.com , which exclusively published both letters today, "The RNC sees the odd programming move as an in-kind contribution to Clinton’s presumed campaign for President in 2016. As a result, the party will formally bar Republicans from partnering with the networks on any primary or Presidential debates in 2016."

As reported in The New York Times, CNN announced Monday July 29, that its film division would produce a documentary on Clinton. The CNN documentary is expected to be released in 2014 and will have a run in theaters before it plays on television. The film will be produced and directed by Charles Ferguson, who won a documentary Oscar in 2010 for the film "Inside Job," about the corruption in the financial services sector that contributed to the economic crisis in 2007-2008.

Two days earlier, NBC announced it would produce a four-hour mini-series on the former First Lady and Secretary of State, and intends to broadcast it before any possible formal declarations are made about a Clinton candidacy. As stated in the New York Times, "That would avoid the possibility of other candidates demanding equal time, said Robert Greenblatt, NBC’s top entertainment executive."

The NBC project, which will star Oscar nominated actress Diane Lane will, according to press notes, "recount Clinton’s life as a wife, politician and cabinet member from 1998 to present."

Calling both projects, "an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign" and "a political ad masquerading as an unbiased production," Chairman Preibus issued the following ultimatum to NBC and CNN:

"If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC statting that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor."

The CNN and NBC documentary and biopic aren’t the first time a film treatment of Clinton’s life has been planned for the small screen. According to Slate, in 2008 Citizens United produced and intended to air an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary during the 2008 presidential primary season through a cable television "video on demand" service and to advertise for it on television. In exchange for a $1.2 million fee, a cable television operator consortium would have made the documentary available to cable subscribers to download free "on demand," as part of an "Election ’08" series.

Citizens United is an ideological group (like the NRA or Planned Parenthood), but it takes for-profit corporate funding. The McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law passed in 2002 bars certain corporate-funded television broadcasts, such as this documentary, in the period before an election. And the law requires disclosure by the funders of election-related broadcast advertising, such as these ads.

In twin letters to NBC and CNN, RNC Chairman Preibus references the failed 2008 Citizens United Clinton documentary

"Liberals complained noisily when Citizens United sought to air a pay-per-view documentary on Hillary Clinton prior to the 2008 election, and yet they’re conspicuously silent now that a major news network will launch a documentary of its own."

In both letters, Preibus accuses CNN and NBC of a "thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election." He further states that both projects constitute "special treatment (which) is unfair to the candidates for the Democratic nomination who might compete against Secretary Clinton...and to the Republican nominee, should Clinton compete in the general election."

In his more stinging letter to NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt, Preibus, a frequent guest on FOX News, accuses the peacock network and its parent company’s political bias, saying

"Executives and employees of Comcast, NBC’s parent company have been generous supporters of Democrats and Secretary Clinton. David Cohen, Comcast’s EVP, raised over $1.4 million for President Obama’s reelection efforts and hosted a fundraiser for the president. Comcast corp. employees have donated $522,996 to the president and donated $161,640 to Secretary Clinton’s previous campaigns.

Your company has expressly stated that your choice to air the miniseries in the near future would avoid concerns of running afoul of equal time election laws. This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate, not to mention a guilty conscience. "

The CNN documentary is expected to be released in 2014 and will have a run in theaters before it plays on CNN.

CNN said the film unit operates separately and without editorial input from CNN itself.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2013-08-07 23:27:05

    There is a word for what Preibus and the Republicans are doing here. The word is "blackmail". I suggest that both CNN and NBC ignore them.


  • Bobby McGuire, 2013-08-11 09:38:42

    The word isn’t "blackmail", it’s "ransom."


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