BOSTON - As expected, Republican Party officials voted Friday not to allow CNN and NBC to sponsor Republican primary debates in 2016 if the networks air planned programs about potential 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
In a resolution passed at the party's summer meeting in Boston, national committee members called CNN's planned documentary and NBC's planned biopic "little more than extended commercials supporting Secretary Clinton" and an attempt to put "a thumb on the scales" for the 2016 presidential election.
GOP chair Reince Priebus had sent a letter to the networks Aug. 5. telling them to drop plans for the programs or face the RNC action. NBC News has said the fictionalized biography is being developed by the network's entertainment division, a separate entity from the news division. CNN asked the RNC to "reserve judgment" until the documentary is further along.
Though the RNC is making Hispanic outreach a priority, the ban nonetheless includes NBC's cable networks and Telemundo and CNN Espanol, RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said. Both networks aired debates during the 2012 campaign.
The RNC is trying to find ways to limit the number of debates in 2016 after the marathon of 20 debates in the 2012 primaries, which Priebus said gave the party's candidates too much opportunity to "slice and dice" each other. Republican candidates could agree to debates regardless of the RNC action, Kukowski said.
Clinton, who recently stepped down as secretary of State, has not said whether she plans to run for office, but activists around the country are organizing a campaign infrastructure for her.
After the vote, CNN issued the following statement:
"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. The CNN broadcast date has not been determined. This documentary will be a non-fiction look at the life of a former First Lady and Secretary of State. The project is in the very early stages of development, months from completion with most of the reporting and the interviewing still to be done. Therefore speculation about the final program is just that. We encouraged all interested parties to wait until the program premieres before judgments are made about it. Unfortunately, the RNC was not willing to do that."