GOP head objects to networks’ plans for Hillary Clinton dramas

McClatchy Washington BureauAugust 5, 2013 


Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

LAWRENCE K. HO — Los Angeles Times/MCT

— Had enough of Hillary Clinton?

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has.

He sent biting letters Monday to network executives at NBC and CNN, asking them to drop their planned projects – a mini-series and a documentary, respectively – about the will-she-or-won’t-she 2016 Democratic presidential contender.

Such programs, he charged, would be a "thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election." Pull the plug by Aug. 14, he warned in a two-page letter to network executives, or he’ll urge the Republican National Committee, which meets next week, to avoid getting involved in 2016 primary debates.

“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 in a statement.

In his letter, he told both networks that their shows "would be most accurately described as an in-kind contribution."

No comment yet from the networks.

Given her celebrity, call it a case of Clinton envy, even though the next presidential election is more than three years away and the former secretary of state (and former New York senator and former first lady) hasn’t signaled any White House intentions.

Republicans, though, are fretting over the prospect of a Clinton juggernaut fueled by their old nemesis, “the liberal media.” After all, there’s been no similar talk of a mini-series about Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, among the most frequently mentioned Republican hopefuls.

Clinton has star power, and Republicans are trying to cope. A McClatchy-Marist Poll taken July 15-18 showed her the choice of 63 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leading independents. The runner-up was "undecided," at 18 percent.

A new Quinnipiac University poll Monday, which measures a politician’s “hot” factor, put Christie first, followed closely by Clinton.

All this gives Clinton a big head start for 2016, should she choose to run, at least among Democrats. But there’s a flip side: Republicans would rather change the channel than watch her. Marist found her Republican backing at 6 percent.

But how much will TV shows about Clinton, no matter how fawning or savage, matter? Can there be anything more to say about this woman, who’s been in the national spotlight since 1992?

Some say there’s plenty.

"It’s not the program, it’s the social media explosion that happens after all this," said Tobe Berkovitz, who teaches advertising at Boston University. "People may not watch the miniseries, but they’ll see the clips and they’ll read the social media."

That’s what concerns Priebus, who sees his own candidates getting shut out of the daily buzz. That point was sort of made Monday as his letters lit up social media.

David Plouffe, an architect of President Barack Obama’s successful campaigns, sarcastically tweeted that to Republicans the best plan for a presidential debate would be one “in a hermetically sealed Fox studio.”

Priebus can take some solace from, of all things, the Republicans’ own brush with pre-presidential primary celebrity.

On Memorial Day 2005, the A&E network premiered "Faith of My Fathers," a movie based on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s memoirs, including his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCain would go on to win the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Of course, that’s not how the story ended.

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