The Clintons Were the Only Ones Who Hated the Idea of a CNN Hillary Documentary More Than Republicans

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 30 2013 10:41 AM

CNN's Hillary Documentary Won't Happen After All

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Chelsea Clinton and Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attend the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) September 26, 2013 in New York

Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty Images

CNN confirmed Monday that it is pulling the plug on its planned Hillary Clinton documentary after the Oscar winner behind it, Charles Ferguson, announced that he had given up on making the film about the former first lady and secretary of state. As you'll probably remember, Republicans were up in arms about the prospects of a feature-length look at the past and likely future White House hopeful airing in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections. But while the GOP objections (and accompanying threats) likely played a small role in dooming the film project, Ferguson says the real death blow actually came Team Clinton.

Writing in the Huffington Post on Monday, Ferguson recounts what he says was the Clinton-imposed roadblocks that he began to run in to immediately after he signed onto the project:

The day after the contract [with CNN] was signed, I received a message from Nick Merrill, Hillary Clinton's press secretary. He already knew about the film, and clearly had a source within CNN. He interrogated me; at first I answered, but eventually I stopped. 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.
Next came Phillipe Reines, Hillary Clinton's media fixer, who contacted various people at CNN, interrogated them, and expressed concern about alleged conflicts of interest generated because my film was a for-profit endeavor (as nearly all documentaries and news organizations are). When I contacted him, he declined to speak with me. He then repeated his allegations to Politico, which published them. ...
[W]hen 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. Not even journalists who want access, which can easily be taken away. I even sensed potential difficulty in licensing archival footage from CBN (Pat Robertson) and from Fox. After approaching well over a hundred people, only two persons who had ever dealt with Mrs. Clinton would agree to an on-camera interview, and I suspected that even they would back out.
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You can read Ferguson's full post here. In it, the Inside Job director makes it clear that he had no plans to turn his cable documentary into a puff piece about Hillary and her husband. For starters, he laments the lost opportunity to take a closer look at the role the Clinton administration played in the financial crisis and how the Clintons have gone about amassing their current fortune.

"After painful reflection, I decided that I couldn't make a film of which I would be proud. And so I'm cancelling," Ferguson writes. "It's a victory for the Clintons, and for the money machines that both political parties have now become. But I don't think that it's a victory for the media, or for the American people."

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Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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