After being hammed over the past few days over questions about when exactly he left Bain, on Sunday Mitt Romney’s campaign released a new ad that manged to set off a new controversy. The commercial illustrates how Obama abandoned the rhetoric of “hope and change” and went negative by playing quotes from CBS’s Bob Schieffer, the New York Times’ David Brooks, and Time’s Mark Halperin (Obama actually did the same thing in 2008, as the Romney team would know if they’d read Frank Rich’s recent article on the subject more closely). Now two of the three journalists have responded, and surprisingly, they weren’t flattered by being dragged into an attack ad without their permission.
Schieffer saw the ad for the first time when it debuted during Face the Nation. “That was a question that I posed to David Axelrod — not a statement,” he said. “I have no affiliation with the Romney campaign. This was done without our permission. I’m sure I’ll get some blowback.” Later Halperin responded:
To echo what NBC News’ Tom Brokaw said in January, when his image and voice were used in a Romney campaign TV ad … I am extremely uncomfortable with the use of my personal image in this political ad … I do not want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.
On Sunday night NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt noted that the network hadn’t authorized the campaign to use the footage and has asked it to “refrain from doing so.”
The Romney campaign must have anticipated their reaction after Brokaw denounced the use of a clip from the NBC Nightly News in a January ad and NBC demanded that it be taken down. However, there weren’t really any consequences to that incident. Following a brief controversy, Romney said, “We will sit down with the lawyers and talk to the folks at NBC and make a decision on that front.” The campaign never announced publicly that it would pull the ad, but it no longer appears on Romney’s official YouTube channel (though it’s still widely available on the site).
Romney’s team argued that the use of news clips in the previous ad fell under fair use, and it seems they’re standing by that position. Halperin and Schieffer are free to voice their dissatisfaction (Romney certainly wouldn’t mind if the issue steals time from covering questions about his Bain exit), but if they’re looking for an apology, they’re unlikely to get it. Their best bet may be following in Brokaw’s footsteps and resorting to doing hilarious impressions of Romney’s “white man overbite.”