Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday defended his call for the party to boycott NBC and CNN if the networks follow through with plans to produce and air separate film projects on Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In an appearance on CNN, Mr. Priebus said the boycott would include the 2016 Republican presidential-primary debates and would target only the networks that air the projects — an important distinction, because a Fox News-affiliated studio is in the running to produce NBC’s proposed Clinton miniseries.
“The company that puts these things on the air to promote Hillary Clinton, including CNN, is the company that is not going to be involved in our debates. Period,” Mr. Priebus said.
“Our party has to quit availing itself to biased moderators and companies that put on television, in this particular case, documentaries and miniseries about a particular candidate that we all know is gearing up to run for president,” Mr. Priebus told CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday.
Ms. Crowley herself came under fire from conservatives last year for her controversial “fact-check” of Mitt Romney at the second presidential debate, in which she told Mr. Romney that Mr. Obama’s claim to have called the Benghazi terrorist attack a terrorist attack was correct.
NBC has announced a four-hour television miniseries on Mrs. Clinton starring actress Diane Lane, and CNN has its own plans for a documentary made by liberal director Charles Ferguson.
The New York Times reported last week that Fox Television Studios, a sister company to Fox News, could be involved in production of the NBC project, but Mr. Priebus said the proposed boycott would target only the networks airing the films.
“Some researcher at CNN or NBC worked for a few days to find some little connection somewhere down the road to — to bring something into this debate. I think it’s totally ridiculous and stupid,” he said. “I’m not going to boycott Diane Lane. It’s not her fault that she decided to take a script. I’m not going to boycott the food trucks that service all of the same company.”
Mr. Priebus said the film projects amount to little more than campaign advertising for the former secretary of state, who has not announced plans for 2016 but is widely considered the leading contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
In Aug. 5 letters to Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, and Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, the RNC said the projects were a “thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election.”
Both networks issued statements last week indicating the Clinton projects will go forward despite the threat.
But not everyone at NBC is on board: NBC News political director Chuck Todd said the project represents a “total nightmare” for the network’s news division.
“We know there’s this giant firewall, we know we have nothing to do with it, we know that we’d love probably to be as critical or whatever. … But there’s nothing we can do about it, and we’re going to only own the negative,” he said last week on MSNBC.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell also called the Clinton miniseries “a really bad idea.”