Earlier this week, Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus went apoplectic over the announcement that NBC Entertainment was developing a miniseries based on Hillary Clinton’s post-White House life. With no script, or even a firm decision to go forward, the GOP, and their PR division, Fox News, lashed out at the network for even considering such a thing. Priebus threatened NBC and CNN (who are considering their own Clinton documentary) calling it “appalling” that they “have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives.” He continued…
“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.”
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Both networks waived off Priebus’ threats saying that he was prematurely judging the projects that are both in very early stages of development. They also pointed out that the projects would be produced by their respective entertainment divisions and that the news divisions would have no role whatsoever in their content. Priebus dismissed those responses and persisted in his assertion that the programs would be biased and that he would not permit his Party to be engaged with the networks should they proceed. He does not believe that the distinction between the news and entertainment divisions has any merit.
Well, today this melodrama became significantly more complex. The New York Times is reporting that NBC is in talks with Fox Television Studios to produce their miniseries. Fox has confirmed the report. NBC’s decision to go with Fox would be influenced in part by Fox’s extensive experience with long-form television.
The problem for Priebus and the GOP is that now they would have to exclude Fox News from holding any of their primary debates. After all, if they are going to take it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives, then the GOP would be forced to show them the same treatment they show NBC and CNN. And Priebus couldn’t argue that Fox’s entertainment division is separate from their news division because he already rejected that argument.
So now the Republican Party may not be able to have debates on any of the cable news networks. This leaves them with only ABC and CBS. Well, technically, there is also the highest rated national network, Univision, but that doesn’t seem like a good fit for the Hispanic-hating GOP. Perhaps they could work something out with Al-Jazeera America. The GOP is getting closer to Rush Limbaugh’s ideal. Yesterday he offered some advice to Republicans:
“Do ‘em on your own network. Put on your own debates with your own moderators,” he said, because “Wherever you go outside of Fox, you are going up against the Democrat Party.””
The opportunities for Republicans are getting narrower every day. I continue to believe, as I wrote last week, that the best thing that could happen to the Democrats is for Republicans to sequester themselves in the bosom of Fox News. It would limit their exposure to the broader electorate and the independents they need to win. It would also insure that their candidates were unvetted and unprepared for the real-life battles of a campaign. If they spend the primary season being fluffed by Fox, when they eventually face the general election they will be surprised by sharp criticisms from which they were shielded in their chummy primary.
But now they may not even be able to go to Fox. What will become of them? Will they wander the countryside looking for local broadcasters to carry their debates? Will they abandon TV altogether and have their debates on talk radio? I’m sure Limbaugh would appreciate that. Or more likely, they will retreat from their pompous rhetoric and consent to have their debates wherever they are fortunate enough to get an invitation. That is, if they’re smart. So don’t hold your breath.
[Update:] Priebus made a hysterical appearance on CNN’s State of the Union and tried desperately to wriggle out of any obligation to extend his GOP boycott to Fox News if they assume production of NBC’s project. His all too obvious dependency on Fox was in evidence as he attempted to dismiss their lead production role as akin to catering. He also reiterated that his goal is to protect Republican candidates from what he believes are unfriendly moderators. So, again, let him parade his flock on networks that will fluff them lovingly. That will soften them up for the kill when they reach the general election.