Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has threatened to pull NBC and CNN's access to the 2016 Republican primary debates unless those companies pull their current Hillary Clinton-related film projects.
In open letters to the leadership of NBC Universal and CNN International, Priebus expressed his "deep disappointment" over those networks' decisions to produce films "promoting former Secretary Hillary Clinton ahead of her likely candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016."
Should the networks fail to pull those films by the RNC's Summer meeting on August 14, Priebus writes, he will "seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor."
"As an American company you have every right to air programming of your choice. But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded by your actions, which appear to be a major network's thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 election," Priebus wrote in his letters to NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt and CNN president Jeff Zucker.
Greenblatt announced last month that NBC was working on a miniseries about Hillary Clinton that will star Diane Lane; two days later, POLITICO reported that CNN was at work on a feature-length documentary about the former Secretary of State, to be directed by Inside Job's Charles H. Ferguson.
In his letters to NBC and CNN, Priebus hit both projects as undermining the credibility of the two networks' news-gathering operations.
"Out of a sense of fairness and decency and in the interest of the political process and your company's reputation, I call on you to cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production," he wrote to both.
NBC News has so far been silent regarding questions about the mini-series, though the political director Chuck Todd noted on Twitter that the news division had "nothing to do" with the NBC Entertainment project. Of its documentary, CNN spokesperson Allison Gollust last week told POLITICO, "CNN's editorial side has no role in the production of the film, just as it has no role in any of the films produced or acquired by CNN Films."
Priebus's letter to NBC here; his letter to CNN here.
UPDATE (2:28 p.m.): NBC News spokesperson Erika Masonhall emails the official statement from NBC:
NBC News is completely independent of NBC Entertainment and has no involvement in this project.UPDATE (3:41 p.m.): And from CNN spokesperson Allison Gollust:
CNN Films, a division of CNN Worldwide, commissioned a documentary about Hillary Clinton earlier this year. It is expected to premiere in 2014 with a theatrical run prior to airing on CNN. This documentary will be a non-fiction look at the life of a former First Lady and Secretary of State. Instead of making premature decisions about a project that is in the very early stages of development and months from completion, we would encourage the members of the Republican National Committee to reserve judgment until they know more. Should they decide not to participate in debates on CNN, we would find it curious, as limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate di