On Monday, Today co-host Matt Lauer pushed Mitt Romney to stop running an ad that features a clip of former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw reporting Newt Gingrich being charged with ethics violations in 1997. However, it has now been 4,742 days without an NBC story on Gingrich subsequently being cleared on those charges.
Even as Lauer grilled Romney on use of the NBC News coverage, he still failed to correct the record with the fact that in 1999 the Internal Revenue Service completely vindicated Gingrich. Instead, Lauer simply noted how upset Brokaw was: "[He] released a statement saying, quote, 'I'm 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 by any campaign.'"
Was Brokaw equally concerned that his "role as a journalist" had been "compromised" when he failed to make any mention of Gingrich being cleared? Especially after so prominently declaring to the nation on January 21, 1997:
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.
The headline on screen during the report read: "Day of Dishonor."
In a statement released on Monday, NewsBusters publisher and Media Research Center president Brent Bozell took Brokaw to task for his blatant bias:
You used NBC and your anchor chair as a platform to promote Democratic agendas and delight in Republican setbacks for more than 20 years....If Tom Brokaw really cared about this kind of bias, he would do something about his own network and especially its sister network MSNBC given their outrageous pro-Obama nightly commentary disguised as news.
On Today, Lauer cited a New York Times article that went after Romney for being too negative and asked the Republican candidate about the "diabolical brilliance" of his campaign. If only NBC was concerned with it's own negative campaigning against the GOP.
Here is a transcript of Lauer's January 30 exchange with Romney on the use of the NBC News footage:
MATT LAUER: Your campaign recently released an ad about Newt Gingrich's fall from grace back in the 1990s and the ad is basically, the entire ad is a colleague of mine, Tom Brokaw here from NBC News, recounting the fact that Newt Gingrich was asked to step down as House Speaker on ethics charges. NBC News, as you know, has asked you to pull this ad. Tom Brokaw released a statement saying, quote, "I'm 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 by any campaign." Will your campaign withdraw this ad?
MITT ROMNEY: You know, we'll sit down with the lawyers and talk to the folks at NBC and make a decision on that front. I think the reason that it was so effective as an ad was that this was not something which Speaker Gingrich could say had been distorted or that Romney was telling things that were not accurate. This is, instead, just the news from the night when the Speaker was sanctioned, reprimanded by his own members. And so, people heard the news, they didn't hear it filtered, it was just straight on. No heavy music that suggested some kind of sinister background. Instead, Tom Brokaw, a very credible and respected journalist, reporting the news. And I think it was pretty devastating and pointed out that what Speaker Gingrich has been trying to hide is now out in the open.
LAUER: But you will give some consideration to pulling it if that's what the decision of your campaign is?
ROMNEY: Oh, we'll certainly consider that very carefully. Obviously this was not something taken from hidden files. This was on the evening news. So it should hardly come as a revealing piece for people who watch it.