Bill Clinton asked HBO to delay the release of a Martin Scorsese documentary about him until after the Democratic primaries, newly released emails show.
“I spoke to WJC who asked that the doc come out after the primary at the earliest, which is roughly a year from now,” Andy Sowers wrote on behalf of Steve Bing, a longtime donor to Clinton causes and a producer of the film, to HBO chief executive officer Richard Plepler on June 2, 2015.
Bing was a producer of the Scorsese-directed project, which was announced by HBO in 2012.
The email was released on Tuesday by WikiLeaks, which obtained hacked emails from the Gmail account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
It is unclear why Clinton wanted to delay the release of the film. It could be that the former president was worried that footage could be used to hurt his wife’s chances in the Democratic primaries. Or, if he felt that the documentary was positive, he may have wanted it to run ahead of the general election in order to help Hillary.
Plepler suggested delaying the release until after the general election.
“I was even thinking after the election so we have zero risk of any suggestion that it’s partisan. Let’s discuss with all,” he wrote to Sowers.
The email exchange occurred several months after The New York Times reported that the documentary was stalled because Clinton wanted more control over what questions he would be asked in interviews for the project. He also reportedly wanted control over how his daughter Chelsea figured into the documentary.
The Times reporters suggested in the article that Clinton wanted to avoid being portrayed negatively, especially given the former first lady’s political candidacy. The report reads:
Clearly, the film carried the risk that an unflattering camera angle, unwelcome question or even an obvious omission by Mr. Scorsese would become a blemish to Mr. Clinton’s legacy or provide fodder for Clinton critics as the 2016 campaign approaches. Apparently to avoid such problems, people close to Mr. Clinton sought to approve questions he would be asked in the film, and went so far as to demand final cut, a privilege generally reserved for directors of Mr. Scorsese’s stature.
Matt McKenna, an assistant to Clinton, told The Times at the time that claims that the project was shelved because of differences over editorial control were “inaccurate.”
An HBO spokesman issued a statement then, stating that the project was “not happening soon but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.”
HBO has not announced when — or if — the documentary will be released. There has been no reporting to date on how Clinton is portrayed in the film. Some entertainment websites have editorialized that it will be charitable to the former first family since Bing is involved.
The Daily Caller’s requests for comment and clarification sent to HBO and to Sowers, Bing’s assistant, were not returned.