Republicans ire over TV shows 'promoting Clinton as president'
Republicans call on networks to drop planned programmes about former secretary of state and threaten to ban both from primary debates
Associated Press in Washington
Republicans are calling on two major US television networks to drop shows that they say unfairly promote former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) says the shows by NBC and CNN are an attempt to encourage a potential presidential candidacy by Clinton.
And it threatened to ban the networks from future Republican primary debates if they air them.
RNC chief Reince Priebus called a planned NBC mini-series and a CNN documentary on the former first lady an "extended commercial".
In separate letters to the networks, he urged them to cancel "this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production".
Clinton has not yet said if she will bid to succeed Barack Obama in 2016. But Republicans have long complained that news and entertainment industries favour Democratic candidates.
CNN Films is planning a feature-length documentary film on Clinton, looking at her professional and personal life. It will be led by Oscar-winning director and producer Charles Ferguson and is expected to air next year.
NBC has announced a miniseries called Hillary and starring Diane Lane. No air date has been announced but it is timed to be released before the 2016 presidential election.
NBC said the four-hour mini-series will follow Clinton's life from 1998 to the present. Richard Licata, an NBC Entertainment spokesman, declined comment on the Republican request.
But CNN said in a statement: "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."
It added: "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."
In the letters, Priebus said the RNC would refuse to partner with the two networks on future Republican primary debates or sanction any debates which CNN or NBC may sponsor if they continued with their Clinton shows.
Unless the networks comply, he plans to push for the sanctions at an RNC meeting in Boston beginning next Wednesday.
Republican leaders in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina said they supported the request.
Since Mitt Romney's loss to Obama in last year's elections, Republicans have pushed to limit the number of primary debates.
A large field of Republicans participated in about 20 debates in 2011 and last year and some leaders argued it hurt their ability to stay unified against Obama.
An audit by the RNC released earlier this year called for 10 to 12 primary debates during the 2016 campaign, with the first occurring no earlier than September 1, 2015. If NBC and CNN were excluded from sponsoring debates, it could help the RNC meet its recommendation.
The Republican request also shines a spotlight on the tricky nature of television news and how the entertainment wing of a network can cause headaches for its separate news division.
CNN Films is a unit of CNN that was started last year to develop feature-length documentaries for both television and cinemas.
NBC Entertainment is separate from NBC News but both are part of NBCUniversal, which Comcast bought from General Electric in 2011.
In the letter, Priebus noted that executives and employees of Philadelphia-based Comcast have made large financial contributions to the campaigns of Obama and Clinton in the past.