CNN Films has canceled its controversial Hillary Clinton documentary after its director Charles Ferguson pulled out, citing an inability to get sources to go on the record and pushback from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Ferguson posted a blog entry on the Huffington Post explaining his decision on Monday and a spokeswoman for CNN confirmed to TheWrap that CNN Films would not be moving forward with the film in his absence.
“Charles Ferguson has informed us that he is not moving forward with his documentary about Hillary Clinton. Charles is an Academy Award winning director who CNN Films was excited to be working with, but we understand and respect his decision,” the spokeswoman said.
Ferguson criticized the responses to his doc from Democrats, Republicans and the Clintons themselves in the blog, saying all three group pushed back on the film and made it nearly impossible for him to continue with the project.
The Republican response was well-publicized, culminating in the RNC’s decision to boycott CNN and NBC networks for their parts in producing the documentary and NBC’s miniseries starring Diane Lane. David Brock, founder of the partisan media watchdog group Media Matters, posted his support of the RNC’s decision on his website in August.
Ferguson hit out at Brock, writing: “Coming from Mr. Brock, this was rather amusing. David Brock began life as an ultraconservative “investigative journalist,” quotation marks very much intended, spreading scandal with little regard for truth.”
Brock said in a statement that he agreed with Ferguson’s decision, if not how he expressed it. “We’re gratified that Charles Ferguson did the right thing by backing out of pursuing a project that posed a serious conflict of interest for CNN. His distorted and self-serving account, in which he reveals his anti-Clinton animus, only confirms that our assessment of this film was correct. The threat of misinformation was too high.”
The Clintons were also unwilling to support the film, Ferguson said, and push back from their people was what ultimately made it impossible for him to complete the project as he’d envisioned.
“I got in touch with several prominent Democrats who knew Hillary Clinton,” Ferguson wrote. “I told them that this campaign against the film and against CNN was counterproductive. They conveyed this message to Mrs. Clinton personally, along with my request to speak with her. The answer that came back was, basically, over my dead body.”
Ferguson did manage to speak with Bill Clinton, he said, where the former president “proceeded to tell me the most amazing lies I’ve heard in quite a while.”
“Wow, I thought, this guy is a really good actor. And I also saw one reason why Hillary Clinton might not be thrilled about my movie.”
Ultimately, Ferguson wrote, “after approaching well over a hundred people, only two persons who had ever dealt with Mrs. Clinton would agree to an on-camera interview, and I suspected that even they would back out … After painful reflection, I decided that I couldn’t make a film of which I would be proud. And so I’m cancelling.”
Ferguson did say, multiple times, that CNN was fully supportive of the project throughout.