By Rebecca Shabad - 10/01/13 12:16 AM EDT
NBC on Monday announced it was canceling plans to air a miniseries on Hillary Clinton.
The network’s decision came the same day CNN scrapped a planned documentary about Clinton after the film’s director bowed out.
NBC offered little rationale for its decision to drop the Clinton miniseries, which was to have starred Academy Award winner Diane Lane as the former first lady, senator and secretary of State.
“After reviewing and prioritizing our slate of movie/mini-series development, we’ve decided that we will no longer continue developing the Hillary Clinton mini-series,” an NBC official said in a statement to The Hill.
But the project had been divisive within the network, where stars of its news division strongly criticized the idea of doing a miniseries on Clinton just as she might be preparing to run for the White House for a second time.
White House correspondent Chuck Todd called the project a “total nightmare” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in August.
“Can already imagine how either Clinton lovers or haters will assume some sort of NBC News involvement. Trust me, we have day jobs,” Todd tweeted at the time.
CNN’s project appeared to fall apart because of opposition from Clinton’s camp, which is well-known for aggressively protecting her image.
The cable network said it decided not to proceed and seek other partners for its planned film after director Charles Ferguson announced he was backing out.
“Charles Ferguson has informed us that he is not moving forward with his documentary about Hillary Clinton,” a CNN official said. “Charles is an Academy Award winning director who CNN Films was excited to be working with, but we understand and respect his decision.”
The decision by CNN may have made it easier for NBC to drop plans for the miniseries later in the day.
It’s not clear that the Clintons had embraced either project, and in a Huffington Post blog post on Monday, Ferguson made it clear Team Hillary had been uncooperative with his efforts.
Clinton press secretary Nick Merrill “interrogated” him after the film contract was signed, he wrote.
“He interrogated me; at first I answered, but eventually I stopped,” Ferguson said. “When I requested an off-the-record, private conversation with Mrs. Clinton, Merrill replied that she was busy writing her book, and not speaking to the media.”
Philippe Reines, perhaps the best-known of Clinton’s gatekeepers, declined a request to speak with Ferguson and complained to CNN employees that the documentary was a conflict of interest, Ferguson wrote.
He also said friends and contacts of Hillary and former President Bill Clinton were uncooperative.
“I would have loved to explore all this. But when I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film — not Democrats, not Republicans, and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration,” Ferguson said.
Multiple public polls have shown Clinton as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016 if she decides to run. They show her far ahead of other possible Democratic candidates, and the publishing and entertainment industries have shown a clear interest in marketing stories about her in anticipation of another historic run.
Republicans had suggested the two films would give Clinton an advantage against Republicans if she ran for the White House.
Over the summer, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus announced that neither CNN nor NBC would be allowed to run GOP 2016 debates if they went through with the projects.
“Documentarian set to produce CNN HRC infomercial cancels film. So…when will NBC follow suit,” Priebus tweeted Monday, before NBC’s decision was announced.