- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2013

The head of the Republican National Committee is demanding that NBC and CNN pull the plug on airing an upcoming documentary and a miniseries on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — or risk losing out on the chance to sponsor presidential debates in the 2016 GOP primary election.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sent letters to Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, and Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, calling on them to “cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production.”

“If you have not agreed to pull the programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 15, I 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,” Mr. Priebus wrote in letters he released Monday.

Mr. Priebus said the programming appears to be a “major network’s thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election.” In an accompanying news release, he said that it is “appalling” to know that the executives at NBC and CNN have donated to Democrats and “take it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives.”

Echoing long-standing complaints from conservatives about liberal bias in the mainstream media, Mr. Priebus also noted in his letter to NBC the overt liberal-left partisanship of the MSNBC cable network.

Mrs. Clinton, also a former senator from New York, is far ahead in the early Democratic polls for the 2016 presidential race, although she has not indicated whether she will run.

The two networks’ projects are quite different, though no final air dates have been set and neither project has been completed.

NBC will produce a fictionalized miniseries called “Hillary,” with Oscar-nominated actress Diane Lane set to play Mrs. Clinton. The four-hour film will cover the former first lady’s public life since 1998, the year consumed by President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and the resulting impeachment furor.

Meanwhile CNN Films will air a feature-length documentary on Mrs. Clinton, to be directed by Charles Ferguson, who won an Oscar for the 2010 anti-Wall Street documentary “Inside Job.” In his acceptance speech, Mr. Ferguson noted that “not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.”

In a statement, CNN said the RNC should “reserve judgment until they know more” about Mr. Ferguson’s film, which “is in the very early stages of development and months from completion.”

The cable network also chided in advance as “curious” any decision to exclude CNN for hosting debates, saying that “limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate disservice to voters.”

Meanwhile, officials at NBC passed the buck to each other, with Richard Licata, an NBC Entertainment spokesman, declining comment to The Associated Press on the request and referring calls to NBC News. In a statement, NBC News said it “is completely independent of NBC Entertainment and has no involvement in this project.”

Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker applauded the move, saying that the state party there will not co-sponsor debates with the two networks if they don’t go along with the request.

“For far too long, Republicans have stood back and watched helplessly as news networks have covered anything but news, instead using their platforms to promote left-leaning policies and candidates within the Democratic Party. It’s time Republicans pushed back and refuse to let these media outlets decide who our next president will be,” Mr. Spiker said.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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