NBC and MSNBC Created and Aired Anti-Romney Video in February With No Media Outrage

Fox News is taking a lot of heat for broadcasting a four-minute video attacking President Obama on Wednesday's Fox & Friends.

Yet when NewsBusters broke the story that a film mocking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was created by NBC and aired first on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show and then on MSNBC's Hardball in late February, there was no similar media outrage (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Before we break, “The Artist” is the odds-on favorite to get the best picture Oscar this Sunday night. The movie's about the perfect silent picture star who faces his downfall when he has to open his mouth. And that made us think of a certain Republican frontrunner out there. Well here then is our trailer for a movie we're calling "Mitt Better Off Mute."

The video began with the caption, “Meet Mitt Romney – The PERFECT Presidential Candidate.” From there, clips of Romney were shown at various campaign events, all in a grainy silent picture black-and-white.

The next caption read, “A real crowd pleaser – right out of central casting!” And then, “He just LOOKS like a President!”

Adoring press members were shown snapping pictures of Romney as well as applauding crowds and swooning young women.

Then a caption appeared that read, “But – A terrible problem…” followed by “He’d be better off as a silent movie star…”

This led to a video clip of Romney saying, “I love this state. It seems right here. The trees are the right height.”

The audience laughed leaving an embarrassed Romney on the stage as the final two captions appeared reading, “The true story of a candidate’s struggle to find his voice…” and “Mitt Better Off Mute.”

As the video ended, the BBC’s Katty Kay, the New York Times’ Helen Cooper, and Time magazine’s Joe Klein were seen laughing or smiling as Matthews said, “Mitt Better Off Mute, we’re very proud of that.”

This was aired at least once on MSNBC the following day on Hardball.

Did you hear any mainstream media outlets complaining at the time?

Yet when Fox & Friends aired a negative video about President Obama three months later, media pounced.

Politico's Dylan Byers wrote Wednesday:

For all its blatantly conservative programming, Fox News does a pretty incredible job of swearing up and down that it's nonpartisan. But it's kind of impossible to see how you walk this one back.

The Huffington Post was also none too pleased:

The video, which the hosts of the show advertised as taking a "look back" at President Obama's four years in office, could easily be mistaken for a Republican attack ad.

This contrasted nicely with the Huffington Post's glee over Matthews's video in February:

Chris Matthews took a trip to the movies on his Sunday syndicated show, using Oscar favorite "The Artist" to make a parody trailer about Mitt Romney and his many verbal gaffes. [...]

The parody was filmed before Romney said that he knew lots of NASCAR team owners, so that gaffe didn't make the cut.

I guess for the Huffington Post, cable networks producing videos attacking a Republican presidential candidate is fine and dandy, but going after a Democrat in similar fashion is strictly forbidden.

Speaking of hypocrisy, MSNBC's Ed Schultz was also displeased with what Fox did Wednesday:

ED SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. If there was ever any doubt Fox News is an arm of the Republican party, it ended today when Fox and Friends presented a retrospective of President Obama`s first term. Here's how they set it up.


After playing parts of the video and offering commentary, Schultz concluded:

SCHULTZ: It was obviously a political attack ad and it clearly contained inaccuracies. They aired it twice, which was worth about 96,000 dollars in free advertising for the Republican party, according to Media Matters.

Fox executives are trying to distance themselves from all of this. "The package that aired on Fox & Friends was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show's producers." A spokeswoman for Fox News said that "Roger Ailes was not aware of the video."

The attack ad was so bad, even conservative commentators criticized it. "If anyone wanted to look for evidence that Fox News intends to campaign against President Obama rather than cover the campaign, this video would be difficult to refute."

The president of Fox News, Roger Ailes, is a career political strategist -- career political strategist. He's done it a long, long time. Fox News gives him a platform to run a 24-hour, 24/7 political operation. This attack ad is just the latest blatant example. Now show me the balance. Show me the fairness. It isn't going to happen.

For the record, I couldn't find any similar disgust from Schultz concerning his own network's attack video on Romney in February.

No surprise there.

But what was surprising was a piece about this very issue in Thursday's Atlantic:

Yesterday, media critics pounced on the right-leaning cable network for running an internally-produced video on Fox & Friends purporting to show "The Impact of the President's First Term."...By the same standard, however, one would have to argue that MSNBC is guilty of the same crime. 

In late February, the left-leaning network aired a slickly-produced hit piece on Mitt Romney titled "Mitt: Better Off Mute" that aired on the nightly cable show Hardball with Chris Matthews and Sunday morning talk show The Chris Matthews Show, which typically airs on NBC affiliates and their sister stations.

Nice to see we're not the only ones noticing the hypocrisy.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.