The Republican National Committee on Monday told NBC and CNN they would not partner with the networks for 2016 presidential debates unless the television channels dropped plans to air programs focused on the life of Hillary Clinton, the likely frontrunner for the next Democratic presidential nomination.
In separate letters to the networks, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said he would seek a binding vote from his organization to keep the committee from partnering with CNN and NBC or sanctioning debates they sponsor. He gave the networks until Aug. 14, the start of the RNC’s summer meeting, to pull the Clinton programming.
NBC is planning a miniseries devoted to Clinton and has tapped Diane Lane to star as the former first lady. CNN has its own documentary in the works on Clinton.
“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 said. “Their actions to promote Secretary Clinton are disturbing and disappointing. I hope Americans will question the credibility of these networks and that NBC and CNN will reconsider their partisan actions and cancel these political ads masked as unbiased entertainment.”
In theory, the eventual 2016 Republican presidential candidate could still choose to appear in a debate sponsored by either of those networks but is unlikely to do so without the support of the RNC. And it’s still unclear if Priebus will stand by the threat or is just floating a trial balloon.
By boycotting NBC and CNN, Republicans could also limit the number of high-risk situations for their candidates. Many GOP leaders believe the 20 Republican debates in the last election cycle ultimately hurt the party and damaged Mitt Romney heading into his general-election battle with President Obama.
Priebus’ letters to CNN and NBC are also interesting in that they provide a glimpse of who the conservative organization views as likely frontrunners to the Democratic nomination. The RNC chairman complained that possible candidates, such as Vice President Joe Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, would be unfairly punished by the networks giving Clinton so much free airtime.