Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday to defend his threat to pull his party’s presidential primary debates off of NBC and CNN if those networks continue production of films about the life of potential 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton.
“My point is it really doesn’t matter because I have to set a debate calendar that has the best interest of our party and our nominees in mind,” Priebus said.” And if I’ve got NBC doing a miniseries with Diane Lane portraying Hillary Clinton on a four-day miniseries, I’ve got to tell you it makes my choice of moderators much easier and that’s the only point I’m making now.”
The Clinton miniseries is still in early stages of production, said an NBC representative in a statement. “NBC Entertainment has many projects in development, and this particular miniseries—which has nothing to do with the NBC News division—is in the very early stages.”
Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Priebus why he felt comfortable appearing on Morning Joe — a product of NBC.
“I’m not going to have you moderate the Republican debates in our primary. I mean, there’s a difference,” Priebus said. “Because you’re not actually interested in the future of the Republican Party and our nominees. That’s not a slam on you, Mika. I have to choose moderators that are actually interested in the Republican Party and our nominees [emphasis ours]. And it’s not going to be NBC if they continue to go forward with this miniseries.”
The requirement that a moderator be “interested” in the candidates in a way Brzezinski isn’t suggests that the moderator would need to be partial to the GOP. The chairman has suggested that right-wing radio hosts would make good moderators.
A major voice from the left, Media Matters‘ David Brock has also called for NBC and CNN to cancel production on the Clinton projects.
“Given that this project could coincide with a potential Clinton campaign, the timing raises too many questions about fairness and conflicts of interest ahead of the 2016 election,” Brock wrote in letters to both NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt and CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker.
During his interview with Priebus, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough brought up the HBO movie Game Change, which depicted Sarah Palin as a challenging and defiant vice-presidential candidate that neither her nor Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) staffs could tolerate.
“[HBO] made her into a cartoon character,” he said.
“Surprise, surprise,” Priebus sarcastically responded.
Nicolle Wallace, a senior advisor to the McCain-Palin campaign, was on the Morning Joe set Thursday morning and sat silently for the whole Priebus interview. Wallace and Palin became increasingly at odds with each other as the campaign went on.
Wallace said the portrayal of Palin in Game Change was “true enough to make me squirm.”
Priebus’ insecurity likely stems from an idea that anything highlighting Clinton’s accomplishments will certainly cast a dark shadow over their nominee. Or perhaps he’s just creating a pretense to hold fewer debates — a stated goal of the so-called GOP autopsy.
Watch the interview from MSNBC’s Morning Joe: