Breitbart reports today that Reince Priebus, the RNC chairman, sent letters to CNN and NBC threatening the two networks that if they go through with plans to produce hagiographic Hillary Clinton biopics they can forget about participating in Republican debates for 2016.
Priebus wrote to CNN:
I find CNN’s actions disturbing and disappointing. Your credibility as a supposedly unbiased news network will most certainly be jeopardized by the decision to show political favoritism and produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign.
And to NBC:
I find this disturbing and disappointing. NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign.
Breitbart’s Mike Flynn notes that neither network is known for producing biographical films on American political figures. Clinton’s predecessor as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice didn’t have an NBC miniseries made about her starring, say, Vivica Fox, and CNN didn’t do a friendly biography on Mitt Romney.
Given the treatment NBC and CNN gave to the 2012 Republican field during the primary debates it was probably long past time for the RNC to get tough with those networks. Remember John King’s interminable grunting during the June 2011 GOP debate? Or how about MSNBC’s two-hour-plus post-debate evisceration of the field following the September 2011 Reagan library debate?
Those attempts to tear down the Republican candidates, which are obvious even to Democrats watching them, have gone on largely unchallenged and unpunished for years – with the justification by the East Coast GOP establishment and others that the party needs exposure in left-wing media or else it won’t win any converts.
Of course, conservative candidates are portrayed as loons and cranks while establishment moderates are portrayed as responsible in those quarters, and therefore the deck is stacked in favor of the John McCains and Mitt Romneys where it comes to media treatment. And the “we have to talk to everybody” narrative being used to justify this farce is disingenuous at best; talking to everybody is smart when you’re in the general election, but a primary process is for talking to yourselves and figuring out how best to present your message to the world – and not for trying to please Chris Matthews.
Priebus, who is regarded by many as a tool of the East Coast GOP establishment, is doing two things by threatening CNN and NBC. First, he’s making a play to squelch the Diane Lane-as-Hillary superhero worship that will function as an in-kind donation to the Democrats’ 2016 hopes (assuming Clinton actually is their nominee, which is an assumption everyone made before she imploded in 2008). But second, he’s perhaps paving the way for a different primary environment. Should CNN and NBC opt for Hillary biopics over GOP debates, at least two networks won’t be around to chew up the conservatives in the GOP field with “when did you quit beating your wife” questions intended to stack the deck for a Chris Christie.
One of the major problems in building viable conservative Republican nominees is that the party allows the left-wing media to filter out a conservative message during the debate process. If Priebus can use the Hillary biopics as a pretext to counter-filter the media access to the debate process, and have a majority of the debates routed through networks which are either friendly (Fox News) or at least marginally objective (ABC, CBS), the chances of marginalizing a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul might be lessened.
That’s smart politics, both because it imposes some cost upon unfriendly media bias and also because it could provide better service to the Republican voting base which is supposed to be the determining factor as to the identity of the party’s nominee.