Republicans win! NBC, CNN cave, yank Hillary Clinton biopics

Under pressure, networks pull plug on partisan propaganda projects. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2013 — As the gears of government wind down today in the nation’s capital, Washington’s beleaguered Republicans can thank heaven for small favors in other precincts. Word was out this morning that both NBC and CNN have pulled the plug on a planned four-hour miniseries and a feature-length documentary on former Democrat first lady and recent Obama Administration secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

NBC’s “Hillary” miniseries, which was to star Diane Lane in the feature role and appear on TV tantalizingly close to the 2016 Presidential election, is said to have been the target of external protests and internal unhappiness at the network.

Earlier Monday, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker who was making a documentary about Clinton for CNN said that he was backing out because few people would cooperate with him. The network said the film would not be produced.

Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea during happier times last month. (AP)

In an unconsciously hilarious attempt at media damage control over these twin Clinton campaign setbacks, Newsday quickly opined: “While there’s no evidence this would have been either pro or anti-Clinton, clearly imaginations had rushed in to fill the void of non-information.”

Since the time both projects were announced, the Republican National Committee had protested both projects, fearing with absolute certainty the likelihood they would lionize Clinton and help build a bandwagon effect behind what’s widely viewed as her likely 2016 presidential candidacy.

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With uncharacteristic firmness, the RNC stated flatly that it would not allow either network to air televised debates among potential GOP candidates for president for 2016 if the films continued. With uncharacteristic alacrity, the two related networks have now abandoned ship.

NBC Entertainment issued a statement saying, “After reviewing and prioritizing our slate of movie and miniseries development, we’ve decided that we will no longer continue developing the Hillary Clinton miniseries.” The statement gave no reason for the change, and spokesman Richard Licata did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The announcement by NBC’s entertainment division this summer that it was making “Hillary” took people in the network’s news division by surprise. They were concerned that the news division would be blamed if the entertainment series took liberties with facts or leaned too far in making a positive or a negative portrayal of Clinton.

NBC News Washington correspondents Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell actually made their unease about the miniseries public.

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CNN, meanwhile, had contracted with Charles Ferguson to make a documentary on Clinton. Ferguson won the 2011 Academy Award for his documentary “Inside Job,” about the 2008 financial meltdown.

But Ferguson wrote in a Monday HuffPo column posted Monday on the hard-left website, stating his fears that he wouldn’t be able to make much of a film. For one, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t agree to be interviewed. Even worse, of the more than 100 people he approached, only two who had dealt with Clinton agreed to speak on camera, likely fearing repercussions.

Ferguson ultimately concluded that nobody was interested in helping him make the film. “Not Republicans, not Democrats — and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration,” he said.

CNN understood and respected Ferguson’s decision, CNN spokeswoman Barbara Levin said Monday. Ferguson, through his manager’s office, declined an interview request.

Clinton spinmeister Nick Merrill, asked for a comment on Ferguson’s decision, said, “Lights, camera, no reaction.”

Worse for NBC and CNN, their decisions don’t necessarily open the door for them to televise the 2016 Republican debates according to the RNC. Spokesman Kirsten Kukowski said CNN hadn’t decided on its own to abandon the project but was only doing so because the filmmaker quit.

Kukowski said the party plans to take firmer control of its debate process in 2016, still stinging from the kind of blatant network partisanship during the last series of presidential debates that clearly contributed to Republican Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012 even after he flattened President Obama in their initial debate.

  —AP contributed to this report


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business

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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, movies and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was formerly the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2009) before moving online with Communities in 2010.  



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