NBC is running the risk of losing out on one of TV’s best reality shows: the Republican presidential primary debates. The GOP’s debates of 2011-12 featured some of television’s most-talked-about moments, from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 chorus to Rick Perry’s “Oops” moment to Mitt Romney’s $10,000 bet — and in 2015, there’s always the chance that Donald Trump could join the cast.
When NBC Entertainment announced in July that it was planning a 2014 miniseries about presumed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, with Diane Lane playing the former first lady, there was an inevitable reaction from the Right. Republicans accused NBC — which also runs the liberal-leaning MSNBC — of promoting its favored candidate, journalism watch-dog groups agreed that the miniseries was a serious conflict of interest, and even high-ranking NBC News personnel, like Chuck Todd, expressed their unease. (Republicans were equally cross about CNN’s plans for its own Hillary Clinton documentary.)
Republicans, who view Clinton as the most formidable 2016 Democratic candidate — though she hasn’t declared her intentions yet — aren’t willing to stand silently while she enjoys a bounty of free publicity. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, called on CNN and NBC to cancel their Clinton TV projects — “political ad[s] masquerading as an unbiased production” — and threatened to keep the Republican debates away from those networks if they refuse to comply. In the 2012 election debates, CNN and NBC (and its cable subsidiaries) sponsored 11 of the 20 Republican debates.
The politics and motivations seemed simple enough, but NBC, it turns out, is in talks to farm out the production of its Clinton miniseries to another company… Fox Television Studios. That’s the same Fox that also runs Fox News, the conservative cable news channel that is perceived as a friendlier room for Republican candidates. Would the RNC hold Fox News accountable with the same threat it levied at CNN and NBC? Well, no.
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