The announcement that NBC was planning a miniseries about Hillary Clinton was first met with excitement by both Washington and Hollywood circles. That excitement has turned to criticism, coming even from within NBC itself, with some accusing NBC of boosting Clinton before her presumed 2016 presidential run, and others worrying that such a miniseries – even though produced by the separate entertainment division — will tarnish the NBC News brand.
To be fair, NBC should have seen it coming; soon after the announcement was made, its political news director Chuck Todd warned, "Can already imagine how either Clinton lovers or haters will assume some sort of NBC News involvement. Trust me, we have day jobs."
Trouble started when the Republican National Committee's Reince Priebus sent a letter to NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, threatening to cancel any partnership for the 2016 Republican presidential primary debates over the miniseries. (The RNC sent a similar letter to CNN over its plans to produce a documentary about Clinton as well).
At first, many didn't take the RNC's threats seriously, some even speculating that one less primary debate might be doing the Republican Party a favor. However the RNC has found some unexpected allies in their criticisms including Leo Hindery, who called himself "just as much a Democrat as Reince is a Republican" when voicing his agreement; liberal watchdog group Media Matters, which also wrote Greenblatt a letter; and Maureen Dowd, a left-leaning columnist at the New York Times.
Now joining the naysayers are members of the NBC News team. Todd spoke up again Thursday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," calling the controversy a "total nightmare for NBC News."
"We know there's this giant firewall. We know we have nothing to do with it," he said. "But there's nothing we can do about it and we are only going to own the negative."
He added, "People are going to see the peacock, and they see NBC and they see NBC News, and they think, well they can't be that separate."
Later in the day, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell said Priebus was "understandably miffed" abut the NBC and CNN plans, adding, "A lot of news people would say – including NBC News people, including Chuck Todd and the rest of us – a really bad idea given the timing."
Robert Gibbs, who in addition to being a MSNBC contributor, previously served as President Barack Obama's press secretary, also called it a "bad idea."
NBC Entertainment appears to be throwing cold water on the whole matter, suggesting that the miniseries might not even be produced. When asked about the backlash, NBC Entertainment sent U.S. News the same statement it sent The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week after the RNC letter:
"NBC Entertainment has many projects in development and this particular mini-series – which has nothing to do with the NBC News division – is in the very early stages. The script has not been written nor has it been ordered to production. It would be premature to draw any conclusions or make any assumptions about it at this time."