RNC Says No Debates If NBC and CNN Don't Pull Clinton Movies
The Republican National Committee has a message for NBC and CNN: If they don't pull their planned Hillary Clinton miniseries and movie, no RNC partnered 2016 debates for them.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote a letter to the heads of both networks to "express his deep disappointment" in their decision to either air a miniseries in NBC's case or a movie in CNN's, writing that the networks are "promoting former Secretary Hillary Clinton ahead of her likely candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.
"As an American company, you have every right to air programming of your choice," the letter reads. "But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded at your actions, which appear to be a major network's thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election."
The RNC says that the programs could not only hurt the 2016 Republican contenders but the 2016 Democratic candidates too.
"This special treatment is unfair to the candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016 who might compete against Secretary Clinton (including Vice President Biden; Govs. O'Malley, Cuomo and Hickenlooper; Sen. Klobuchar and others) and to the Republican nominee, should Clinton compete in the general election," Priebus' letter reads.
NBC announced its miniseries last month. It is a four-parter starring Diane Lane with no set air date. CNN announced last week it was planning a feature-length movie on the former secretary of state's life to premiere in movie theaters and television next year. Both networks have said the programs will have no effect on the news or reporting sides of the networks, and neither has said how Clinton will be portrayed.
"NBC News is completely independent of NBC Entertainment, and has no involvement in this project," Erika Masonhall, a spokeswoman for the network told ABC News.
CNN responded with a statement asking the RNC not to rush to judgment and it is a "non-fiction" look at the former Secretary of State.
"CNN Films, a division of CNN Worldwide, commissioned a documentary about Hillary Clinton earlier this year," the statement says. "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 disservice to voters."
The RNC letter ends with a clear threat: "If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC's summer meeting on Aug. 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2015 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor."
Of course, both networks can easily partner with other Republican groups, other media organizations or hold Republican debates on their own. This would only eliminate partnering with the RNC for any party sanctioned primary or general election 2016 Republican debates.
In a statement Priebus calls both NBC and CNN "Hillary Clinton's campaign operatives."
Priebus also noted that "liberals complained noisily" when Citizens United planned to air a pay-per-view documentary about Clinton before the 2008 election. The fight resulted in a landmark Supreme Court decision that allows donors to funnel large political contributions through super PACs.
At least two key primary states have expressed support for the move.
Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker released a statement saying he stands with the RNC and will "not sign the Iowa GOP up to co-sponsor debates with NBC or CNN unless they pull their upcoming films on Hillary Clinton."
"Given NBC and CNN's decision to move forward on their films, they've attempted to give celebrity status to Hillary Clinton," Spiker said. " They are clearly making an effort to influence the presidential race in 2016 without adhering to their supposed pledge to uphold journalistic integrity. 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 push back and refuse to let these media outlets decide who our next president will be."
South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore released a statement also saying he "fully supports" Priebus' position.
"I say, 'Not in South Carolina!' to debates produced by networks that act more like Hillary Clinton's campaign team than unbiased news sources," Moore said in a statement. "Such political favoritism has no place in American journalism. It's unacceptable, and those networks have no business hosting presidential debates in South Carolina unless they stop production."
It wasn't the only 2016 campaign news on Monday. The Iowa GOP announced that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, would keynote its Reagan dinner in Des Moines on Oct. 25. The event is its fall fundraiser and will be held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Cruz has been spending a great deal of time in this first caucus state. He was there two weeks ago to headline the Iowa GOP's summer picnic and to address the Iowa Renewal Project, an annual weekend gathering of Iowa pastors and religious leaders. He also spoke to ABC News' Jonathan Karl, dismissing talk of a potential 2016 White House bid.
"We are having a national debate about which direction the country should go … and what I am doing now is trying to participate in that national debate," Cruz said. "I'm not focused on the politics. … The last office I was elected to was student council. So this has been a bit of a whirlwind."
Cruz will also be in Iowa later this week with his father to attend a summit of the Family Leader, a prominent evangelical Christian group.
NBC Entertainment did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
This story has been updated with CNN and NBC News' comment since it was first posted.