Republican National Committee tells NBC, CNN to trash Hillary Clinton projects or lose debates


Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Jan. 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.


Alex Wong

It's 2013 and we're already talking about the 2016 presidential election.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus may attempt to block networks CNN and NBC from his party's presidential primary debates over their two early-stage projects about Hillary Clinton.

On Monday, in two open letters, Priebus argued CNN's documentary on the former first lady, senator and secretary of state, and "Rodham," NBC's upcoming miniseries, amount to free campaign ads in the ever-longer run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign. 

To CNN he said: "Your credibility as a supposedly unbiased news network will most certainly be jeopardized by the decision to show political favoritism and produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton's nascent campaign."

To NBC he wrote: "NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton's nascent campaign."

If the networks don't pull their projects by the RNC's meeting on Aug. 14, Priebus said, 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." 

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CNN countered with a strong statement, arguing that Priebus was assuming too much about the content of its project, which presumably, he has not seen.

"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 RNC to reserve judgment until they know more," the statement read. "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 disservice to voters."

In other words, perhaps the RNC needs CNN more than the network needs the Republican primary debates. As usual, CNN and MSNBC are losing the ratings war to Fox — though the news created by Priebus' letters will almost certainly draw a few TV sets to what has in the eyes of some instantly become controversial television.

The film is set to air in 2014, and no broadcast date has been set for the miniseries.  

Speculation over Clinton's presidential aspirations remains just that — speculation. She has not announced her candidacy.