Washington (CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus threatened Monday to try and prevent CNN and NBC from hosting 2016 GOP presidential primary debates unless both networks agreed to cancel forthcoming television specials about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
CNN and NBC, in separate statements, said they would move forward with the projects.
CNN's film unit has ordered a documentary about Clinton, who stepped down as secretary of state earlier this year after representing New York in the U.S. Senate and as first lady in the White House. The documentary is scheduled to air in 2014.
The statement from CNN said:
"CNN Films, a division of CNN Worldwide, commissioned a documentary about Hillary Clinton earlier this year. It is expected to premiere in 2014 with a theatrical run prior to airing on CNN. This documentary will be a non-fiction look at the life of a former First Lady and Secretary of State. Instead of making premature decisions about a project that is in the very early stages of development and months from completion, we would encourage the members of the Republican National Committee to reserve judgment until they know more. Should they decide not to participate in debates on CNN, we would find it curious, as limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate disservice to voters."
NBC has announced plans to run a miniseries with Diane Lane playing the role of the former first lady. The statement from NBC News said:
"NBC News is completely independent of NBC Entertainment and has no involvement in this project."
Priebus made the demands in separate letters to Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, and Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. In the letters, which were released to the public at around the same time they were sent to each network, the RNC chairman claimed these individual programs were an effort to "promote" Clinton in anticipation of a possible run for president. While supporters are taking steps to try and build an infrastructure should Clinton decide to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, she has not indicated whether she will run again.
"Their actions to promote Secretary Clinton are disturbing and disappointing," Priebus wrote. "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. If they have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC's Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote stating that the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor."
In the 2012 GOP presidential primary election, CNN hosted seven of the 20 presidential debates, which were broadly viewed as helping lesser known candidates compete with better know, well-funded rivals. President Barack Obama did not face a primary challenge last year.