Republicans' Ultimatum to CNN and NBC is Bad News — For Republicans

Last Monday, in an act comparable to a public display of infantile foot-stamping, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus demanded that both NBC and CNN cancel entertainment programs they are developing on the life of Hilary Clinton. NBC recently announced that it is preparing a four-hour mini-series about the life of the former first lady, senator, presidential candidate, and secretary of state, while CNN Films is sponsoring a feature-length documentary to be directed by Charles Ferguson, an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker. Many have speculated that Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 2016 presidential elections, a prediction that the RNC leader appears to be taking quite seriously. Priebus claims that the planned entertainment programs are thinly veiled attempts by the networks to influence the 2016 elections, a fact which, according to Priebus, undermines their credibility. Moreover, the RNC’s leader has taken it upon himself to issue an ultimatum to the two networks, declaring that if the programs are not scrapped in time for the RNC’s summer meeting on the August 15, he will ensure that the committee votes to prohibit the two networks from sponsoring Republican primary debates during the 2016 presidential election. The move is a desperate and hysterical one born from the fear of facing such a formidable and high-profile opponent, and it will damage both the reputation and the political prospects of the Republican Party in the long term.

As representatives of both CNN and NBC have pointed out, the editorial and news divisions of these two media giants have nothing to do with the planned entertainment programming, rendering the RNC’s ultimatum unjustified, irrational, and blatantly ineffective. Nonetheless, Priebus seems determined to overlook this minor detail and continue on his crusade to dictate what private media corporations can and cannot produce. Aside from confusing news channels with their entertainment-focused counterparts, the RNC’s leader appears determined to destroy the democratic process by postulating that only news channels that openly support the Republican Party should participate in the debates. Unable to fathom the notion that NBC and CNN’s entertainment divisions would wish to showcase the life of Hilary Clinton because she is, in her own right, a fascinating political figure, Priebus is hell-bent on demonstrating that the networks' planned programming for 2014 is actually a conspiratorial plot by those secretly rooting for a Democratic victory in 2016.

If CNN and NBC are barred from moderating the Republican primaries, Fox News will be the only popular news channel permitted to do so. Considering the fact that most of Fox’s viewers are already Republicans, Priebus is ensuring that a large segment of Democratic and undecided voters will know little to nothing about the Republican candidates and their political programs. While many may question the quality of today’s presidential debates, the primaries continue to be an essential part of the democratic process that allows the public to participate and hear from a wider variety of potential candidates. Many first-time voters are motivated to register and go to the polls by the coverage of the primaries. By limiting the coverage of these debates Priebus will be, ironically, contributing to a Democratic victory and shooting himself and his party in the foot.