CNN’s Erin Burnett Confronts Reince Priebus Over CNN, NBC Boycott Threat
ERIN BURNETT: You know, and let me just start, obviously, this is CNN. So, you know, you’re on CNN. I work for CNN.
Here at CNN, the program that we’re talking about come from the CNN Films division. Not the news arm that I’m an employee of, and obviously at NBC, I know it’s a similar idea. What’s your specific problem with the films?
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, you know, I just think that groups like NBC and CNN that are in the business of news ought to take into consideration the fact that if you want to actually moderate and produce a debate that chooses a nominee for president on the Republican side of the aisle, that it would be reasonable to have the chairman of the party say hang on a second. You ought not be doing feature films or documentaries and mini-series about what we know to be a very likely candidate that is running on the Democratic side of the aisle.
Look, CNN and NBC can do what they want to do. That’s their right. But it is also my right, Erin, as chairman of the party to say if you go forward with this, then I’m going to choose not to include you in the debate process and the moderating of our primary debates in our party.
I think this is a reasonable thing for me to be doing. And I think it is actually something that a chairman of a national party ought to be doing given the situation. BURNETT: So, let me ask you this, because here’s what I know about the CNN documentary. And, of course, again, I’m not going to talk for NBC because I don’t know, and I don’t work for CNN Films either.
But I know that they commissioned a feature length documentary. An important word on Hillary Rodham Clinton and the director of it is an Academy Award-winning director. I know, Reince, you’re well-aware of this, Charles Ferguson.
Now, Ferguson also made the film, “Inside Job”, some of our viewers maybe familiar with. And a review of that film in the nation, which as you’re well aware as a liberal magazine said, his film attacks the Bush administration and offers an equally scathing evaluation of President Obama.
So, a liberal man said the man who made Hillary doc slammed a Democratic president. I know you’ve called the CNN Film though an in kind donation to the campaign.
How do you know, though, this documentary by CNN Films might not actually be really nasty about Hillary and therefore helpful for the RNC?
PRIEBUS: Actually, Erin, I don’t think it matters. I don’t think it matters if it’s really negative or positive. I think presidential elections are largely elections that go to the point of popularity. I think it’s a cult of personality that’s being built.
And if Hillary Clinton runs, if it looks like she’s gearing up to, then she will just build up her campaign, use the fact news networks are building up her name, even if it’s negative. Unless you’re an idiot like Anthony Weiner, generally, I will tell you, generally, Erin, these are positive developments for candidates. It builds up that cult of personality.
BURNETT: All right.
PRIEBUS: And CNN is going to play a role in it.
I don’t think you should. I don’t think your network should be playing a role in building up Hillary Clinton. If Hillary doesn’t run, then they’ll have plenty of time to run all the documentaries in the world about Hillary Clinton. So, you — CNN doesn’t have to proceed right now.
BURNETT: What about, though, the bigger issue that you’re facing, because there is context here, Reince. Some people might say, look, what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. Then there’s this. In 2012 the GOP had 20 televised primary debates. By the way, that was kind of insane.
BURNETT: Obviously, those were not good moments, right? We all know that. But you don’t want as many debates next time. So, a critic might say, look, you’re getting a nice way to feed your base going out against liberal media, when what you’re really accomplishing is cutting out 20 debates that, you know — I mean, more than half would go away if you cut out CNN and NBC.
PRIEBUS: Well, look. There’s plenty of people and groups that would love to host our debates. The fact is, what you’re showing here is making our case. That we ought not have moderators that are in the business of making news at the expense of our party and our candidates moderate our debates.
And moreover, we ought not have moderators and companies that are in the business of promoting a Democratic opponent three years before an election.
So, I mean, you’re making our case, which is number one, NBC and CNN ought to halt their promotional movies of Hillary Clinton. If they don’t want to do that —
BURNETT: Because you’re saying if we air anything on Hillary Clinton, even if it is nasty, it is promoting her, right?
PRIEBUS: It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. The fact is, if your company is so interested in spending million of dollars in promoting Hillary Clinton when they know darn well that Hillary Clinton and the people around her are gearing up for a presidential election, then that is a choice as a news agency that’s trying to be, at least claims to be fair, ought to stop in their tracks and start to think about what the effects of that are.
If you don’t care, if CNN doesn’t care, that’s fine. Then, I don’t care either. We move on without CNN and without NBC. It’s pretty simple.
BURNETT: All right.