Sometimes you spell vicious H-I-S-T-O-R-Y. At least Mitt Romney's most recent attack ad against Newt Gingrich did. It's titled simply History Lesson, and features a long single clip of famed NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw, as he reported on the then-speaker's ethics violations in 1997.
The clip serves up a straight news report in which Tom Brokaw says, Newt Gingrich--who came to power, after all, preaching a higher standard in American politics, a man who brought down another speaker on ethics accusations--tonight, he has on his own record the judgment of his peers, Democrat and Republican alike. By an overwhelming vote, they found him guilty of ethics violations.
This inconvenient historical truth, from an NBC Nightly News show in 1997, shows Newt Gingrich's record in a less-than glamorous light. The viewing must have made for a pretty painful lesson for a history professor.
And if it made former Speaker Gingrich uncomfortable, it is quite possible that it made NBC and Tom Brokaw feel even worse. The NBC legal department has sent a letter to Romney's team asking them to take the ad down, saying, that it makes it look, in effect, as if Brokaw is supporting Romney.
And Tom Brokaw is also not amused. He released a statement, as reported in the Wall Street Journal and other sources, that expressed his feelings about seeing the ad, basically just a clip of his report, followed by Romney's voice taking full responsibility for the message, as follows: I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad. I do no want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.
According to the Journal, the Romney campaign believes that the extended Brokaw clip, falls within fair use. But they will review whether or not to keep running it. That said, you can bet they timed that clip our to the second and then thoroughly talked over just how fair using that much was with a bevy of lawyers.
On a related note, it is worth remembering that much of the money spent on campaigns falls into the coffers of TV and cable companies, such as the much-outraged NBC. A total of $7.2 million was just spent by the Republical presidential candidates in South Carolina alone, according to an analysis by TVB analysis of the Kantar Media Campaign Analysis Group, which was reported in Adweek.