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GOP Chair to NBC, CNN: No Debates if Hillary Clinton Shows Air

Reince Priebus - P 2013
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Reince Priebus

Reince Priebus sends angry letters accusing the networks of bias in favor of Democrats and threatening to blackball both as debate partners in the 2016 presidential race.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has fired off a letter to NBC and another to CNN informing the two networks that they risk being blackballed as debate partners if they don’t abandon plans to air programs about Hillary Clinton ahead of her presumed run for president in 2016.

NBC recently announced plans for a miniseries about Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, while CNN has ordered a feature-length documentary about her intended for theatrical distribution before a TV airing on CNN.

In one letter to CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker and another to NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt, both obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Priebus writes: "If you 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 of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor."

STORY: CNN Jumps on Hillary Clinton Bandwagon With New Doc

In both letters, Priebus attempts to paint the Clinton projects as little more than length, free campaign ads. In the letter to Greenblatt, he notes that David Cohen, who is an executive vp at Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company, has been a major donor to Clinton and other Democrats.

"Your company has expressly stated that your choice to air the miniseries in the near future would avoid concerns of running afoul of equal time election laws," Priebus writes in his letter to Greenblatt. "This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate, not to mention a guilty conscience."

He also takes a shot at left-leaning MSNBC, which he says "already damaged" the credibility of NBC News.

In the letter to CNN, Priebus makes an appeal to the network’s journalistic standards.

"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," Priebus writes in his letter to Zucker.

CNN issued a response to Priebus that saying, in part, that if the RNC refuses to participate in debates CNN may organize, "we would find it curious, as limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate disservice to voters."

NBC Entertainment declined comment. NBC News said in an email: "NBC News is completely independent of NBC Entertainment and has no involvement in this project."

E-mail: Paul.Bond@THR.com