The Republican National Committee on Friday voted to ban CNN and NBC from hosting Republican presidential primary debates in 2016 in retaliation for their plans to air Hillary Clinton related programs.
The RNC’s vote at the party’s Summer Meeting in Boston bars the party or its officials from either partnering of sanctioning debates with either network. The party made good on its threats to do so if the networks didn’t reverse course.
RNC chairman Reince Priebus says the networks are giving Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic candidate, an unfair boost over Republican candidates. He has used the issue to rally the GOP base by returning to a familiar theme: The media is biased against Republicans.
“We’re done putting up with this nonsense. There are plenty of other outlets. We’ll still reach voters, maybe more voters. But CNN and NBC anchors will just have to watch on their competitors’ networks," he said.
“The media overplayed their hand this time. It was so obvious even liberals saw it. And some reporters at CNN and NBC are upset at the Democrat donors in their companies who made the decision to run these Clinton promos."
Preibus wrote on Aug. 5 to NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt and CNN president Jeff Zucker, threatening to bar their networks participation in 2016 primary debates. He cited NBC’s plans to air a Hillary Clinton miniseries starring Diane Lane, and CNN Films' plans for a Clinton documentary that is to air first in theaters, then on CNN.
“It’s appalling to know executives at major networks like NBC and CNN who have donated to Democrats and Hillary Clinton have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives,” Priebus wrote at the time.
Part of the effort was a petition drive targeting the two networks. The party also offered its own “four part mini-series,” entitled, “Will the Hillary Films Include…” Each video in the series included a press release and an ad on the RNC’s Web site.
In the final video, the RNC questioned if the two networks would “forget” to remind viewers of President Clinton’s last-minute clemency orders connected to his wife's allies, and Hillary Clinton’s brother alledgedly accepting cash to lobby for convicted felons.
The videos also raise “The Norman Hsu Scandal,” a reference to a Clinton fundraiser who eventually went to prison, and said Clinton was “dodging questions” about the Benghazi attacks.
Plans for the series caused some internal debate at NBC. While NBC News issued a statement saying it was separate from NBC entertainment, both Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell on the news side have questioned the wisdom of the miniseries. NBC has talked with Fox about producing the series.
Priebus mocked NBC's assertion that its news and entertainment divisions are separate.
“The networks can talk all they want about the lines between their divisions," he said. "But the same week that people at NBC promised that NBC News and NBC Entertainment are separate — the very same week — we heard they’re giving a prime time MSNBC slot to Alec Baldwin."