Would the Romney ad be OK if it featured Ron Burgundy?
As if he didn't have better things to do -- like pandering to Cuban American voters in Florida -- Mitt Romney has agreed to meet with NBC officials to discuss a Romney ad that got the network's knickers in a twist, as an Australian friend would put it. The ad consists of a 1997 clip from NBC News in which then-anchor Tom Brokaw reported on Newt Gingrich's ethics problems and pressure on Gingrich to resign as speaker of the House.
In a display of corporate priggishness, NBC requested that the ad be removed. The complaining letter was written by the network's legal department, which should know that the broadcasting of a snippet from a television program is "fair use" under copyright law. As for Brokaw, the chronicler of the Greatest Generation harrumphed that "I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad. I do not want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain in any campaign."
Brokaw's journalistic bona fides aren't compromised by the Romney ad, any more than a newspaper is besmirched because an ad zooms in on a clip of one of its stories. In neither case would a discerning viewer think that the journalists endorsed the ad -- or the candidate airing it.
Ah, but what about the subliminal effect of hearing the Newt-embarrassing news delivered by the trusted Tom Brokaw instead of, say, Ron Burgundy? Maybe the Romney ad does work that sort of magic with impressionable voters. But is that manipulation any more outrageous than the use of the Statue of Liberty or the American flag in a campaign ad? Brokaw should be proud to be in such iconic company.
-- Michael McGough