Brokaw Objects To Romney Anti-Gingrich Ad with Old NBC Footage

Tom Brokaw isn't happy with Mitt Romney's latest ad, which use of a 1997 NBC news report on Newt Gingrich's ethics.

Tom Brokaw isn’t happy with Mitt Romney’s latest ad.

NBC, Tom Brokaw ask Romney to take down ad made with news footage” (The Hill):

The ad released Saturday consists entirely of a single clip of a single clip of Brokaw reading the top of the broadcast on Jan. 21, 1997, the day the House voted to reprimand former House Speaker on ethics charges.

“Good evening. 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,” Brokaw says in the clip used in the ad.


“I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad,” Brokaw said in a statement. “I do no want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.”

NBC’s legal department said it had written a letter to Romney’s campaign asking that it remove all NBC News material from the campaign’s ads. NBC added that it has issued similar requests when other campaigns have “inappropriately used Nightly News, Meet the Press, Today and MSNBC material.”

Romney’s campaign said they were reviewing the letter, but that they believed it fell under the “fair use” exception to U.S. copyright law. The campaign declined to say whether it would pull the ad.

I don’t have the expertise in intellectual property law to know whether this use constitutes “fair use” but it certainly should. The clip is used as political commentary and is sufficiently short so as not to diminish whatever ability NBC has at this point to charge for the use of the newscast. If anything, it revives interest in material that one imagines has been of no interest to anyone for more than a decade.

Nor would any reasonable person view the ad and see it as an endorsement of Romney by Brokaw or NBC. To the extent people view it as Brokaw making an personal judgment that Gingrich is an unfit leader, it’s from an in-context viewing of what Brokaw said at the time on a scripted news program.

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  1. Sissy Willis says:

    I disagree in this way. According to Byron York, NBC never told their audience, years later, that Gingrich was exonerated:

  2. @Sissy Willis:

    First, even if true, what does that have to do with a violation of intellectual property laws and in improper use of a news report as political advocacy?

    Second, where is York’s link supporting the assertion that ABC, NBC, or CBS “didn’t report at all” on the final resolution of the Gingrich ethics case?

  3. Backing up to discussions of news and fact-finding … the clip is not actually “commentary.”

    It is news and journalism. It is fact.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    Whoa. Newt paid a big fine. That hardly classifies as “being exonerated”. The IRS decided not to prosecute him as a criminal – that hardly qualifies as stating that “he did nothing wrong”. The editorial you linked to presents everything that happened in a completely Newt-centric way and portrays Newt as selflessly pleading guilty to the house charges and accepting a fine that was in danger of personally bankrupting him in order to promote party unity… or something. Newt was and is a lying hypocrite of epic proportions. The fact that some columnist from the Washington Examiner wants to give him a pass doesn’t change that.