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CNN, NBC cancel Hillary Clinton film projects

4:01 AM, Oct 1, 2013   |    comments
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NBC and CNN are backing away from projects about Hillary Rodham Clinton.

NBC is abandoning plans for Hillary, a miniseries planned for next year that would have starred Diane Lane as the former first lady with a story that started in the midst of her husband's Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

CNN announced earlier Monday that it is dropping a planned documentary about the potential 2016 presidential candidate after its director received backlash from Clinton's inner circle and the Republican National Committee.

Republicans had vowed to punish both networks by refusing to let them host GOP primary debates in 2016.

"After reviewing and prioritizing our slate of movie/miniseries development, we've decided that we will no longer continue developing the Hillary Clinton miniseries," NBC said in a statement. Though the project had been in development, with no definitive plan to air, it had been widely expected to be fast-tracked, NBC executives said when the project was announced in August.

Then controversy mounted about featuring a potential future presidential candidate in a partly fictionalized biography, which some Republicans viewed as a free "infomercial" for the once and probably future candidate.

Charles Ferguson, who was to have directed the CNN documentary, wrote in a Huffington Post article that he decided not to go forward because "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."

CNN said in a statement Monday that Ferguson "has informed us that he is not moving forward with his documentary about Hillary Clinton. Charles is an Academy Award-winning director who CNN Films was excited to be working with, but we understand and respect his decision." CNN said it "won't seek other partners and are not proceeding with the film."

Ferguson specifically said he was "interrogated" by Clinton aide Nick Merrill. He said Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton adviser, "contacted various people at CNN, interrogated them and expressed concern about alleged conflicts of interest generated because my film was a for-profit endeavor."

The filmmaker also cited the RNC's decision to withhold CNN as a potential debate sponsor in 2016 if it went ahead with the project.

"It's a victory for the Clintons, and for the money machines that both political parties have now become," Ferguson wrote. "But I don't think that it's a victory for the media, or for the American people."

Asked for a comment on the developments, Merrill e-mailed this statement: "Lights, camera, no reaction."

Catalina Camia and Gary Levin, USA TODAY

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