UPDATE, 1:30 PM: “Any concerns the Clinton team had are all gone. This puts the ‘P’ in puff piece,” a Republican National Committee rep said this afternoon, in response to our report about the announcement by CNN Films that it had hired senior director Courtney Sexton, who previously oversaw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and the bio-docu Jimmy Carter Man From Plains among many other projects. “What’s next: Michael Moore directing?” added Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director, in an email to Politico about Deadline’s coverage of the hire.
PREVIOUS: CNN Films, the division of CNN Worldwide responsible for commissioning the documentary about Hillary Clinton that’s got the RNC’s knickers in a knot, today announced it is welcoming Courtney Sexton to its Los Angeles team as senior director. The Republican National Committee may latch on to this news — in much the same way it did reports MSNBC was giving Alec Baldwin a program — because Sexton has spent the last eight years working with Participant Media where, CNN noted, she managed from development to release such documentary films as An Inconvenient Truth. That’s the Oscar-winning docu about former Veep Al Gore’s global warming campaign. Other titles Sexton shepherded include Jimmy Carter Man From Plains, among many titles. Prior to joining Participant, Sexton worked for two years with filmmaker Davis Guggenheim — An Inconvenient Truth’s director — on the HBO series Deadwood, among other projects.
Earlier this year, CNN Films commissioned the docu about Clinton, slated to premiere in 2014 with a theatrical run prior to its telecast on the cable news network. When RNC’s chairman Reince Priebus first suggested the committee would block CNN from GOP primary debates because of this docu, CNN suggested in a statement that “instead of making premature decisions about a project that is in the very early stages of development and months from completion, we would encourage the members of the Republican National Committee to reserve judgment until they know more. Should they decide not to participate in debates on CNN, we would find it curious, as limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate disservice to voters.” The RNC did, in fact, decide not to participate in debates on CNN, or on NBC — because the latter network announced last month it was preparing a Hillary Clinton miniseries. When RNC finally announced last Friday it had voted unanimously to block NBC and CNN from GOP primary debates, Priebus dismissed NBC News’s White House correspondent Chuck Todd’s talk about the firewall between NBC Entertainment and NBC News by noting press reports MSNBC was talking to former 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin about hosting a weekly program.
“We’re thrilled to have a film executive with Courtney’s experience and talent join CNN Films,” Sexton’s new boss, Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, said in today’s announcement. “Her extensive background in story crafting, and her ability to build strong relationships with filmmakers, will be a major asset to us as we take CNN Films forward.”