Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson has decided to give up on a planned documentary of Hillary Clinton. The documentary was to be for CNN and offer the public an in-depth look at a former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate. Ferguson cites a behind the scenes lobbying effort by Clinton apparatchiks as well as a refusal by many people to talk as the reason the film was canceled.
The day after the contract 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.
But that would just be the beginning of the effort to sabotage the film, which would progress from the shadows into the spotlight with both the RNC and Media Matters slamming the potential film. The seemingly bi-partisan effort didn’t end there, as Clinton operatives pushed back on Saudi money going to the Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Pat Robertson and Fox denied Ferguson access to film archives
Neither political party wanted the film made. After painful reflection, I decided that I couldn’t make a film of which I would be proud. And so I’m cancelling. (Not because of any pressure from CNN — quite the contrary.) 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. I still believe that Mrs. Clinton has many virtues including great intelligence, fortitude, and a deep commitment to bettering the lives of women and children worldwide. But this is not her finest hour.
The cancellation of a documentary of an important public figure by a respected filmmaker raises serious questions about the credibility of the corporate media system and its ability to do journalism in the public interest.