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Likely Bedfellows

If it's good enough for 60 Minutes, it's good enough for the DNC.

3:30 PM, Sep 14, 2004 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Update 6:05 p.m.: Late Tuesday afternoon, NBC News and CBS News requested that that the Democratic National Committee pull the campaign video in question. The DNC, through a spokesman, says that the matter is under consideration.

NBC released a statement Tuesday afternoon. "The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has included an edited excerpt from a Meet the Press interview with President Bush that was broadcast on February 8, 2004 as part of their promotional campaign to be used as a web video and shown in battleground states. NBC News does not authorize its copyrighted footage to be used for partisan political purposes. NBC News did not, and does not, license use of our material for these purposes and we have asked the DNC to cease and desist immediately from using the excerpt."

CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told THE WEEKLY STANDARD late Tuesday afternoon that CBS, like NBC, will demand that the Democratic National Committee stop using CBS News footage in the new ad. "We do not want them to use the video and we are taking it up with them," said Genelius.

Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the DNC, says the matter is under consideration. "We are aware of the request[s] and we are looking at it. Our current understanding is that we have the right to use the limited excerpts in the video. But we are looking at it." See the full original story below.

A NEW attack ad from the Democratic National Committee features footage lifted from the much-disputed 60 Minutes segment aired by CBS News last Wednesday and from an interview last February from NBC's Meet the Press. When the Bush-Cheney campaign in February used footage from an interview President Bush gave NBC's Meet the Press, the network immediately demanded that the campaign pull the ad.

"NBC News did not, and does not, authorize this misuse of our copyrighted material," the network said in its February 10 statement. "As a news interview program, 'Meet the Press' takes very seriously the unauthorized use of its content for partisan political purposes."

NBC lawyers are working on a formal letter asking the DNC to pull the ad. Will CBS do the same? CBS spokeswomen Sandy Genelius and Kelli Edwards did not return telephone and emailed requests for comment. (The smart move, of course, would be for CBS to follow NBC's lead and demand that the ad be pulled or, at least, that the 60 Minutes footage be edited out.)

It is not unusual or illegal for political campaigns to use television footage under the protection of the "fair use" doctrine. But the Bush campaign ad was rather bland compared to the new ad from the DNC. It was a positive ad in which President Bush defends his conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Says Bush:

America has a responsibility in this world to lead, a responsibility to lead in the war against terror, a responsibility to speak clearly about the threats that we all face, a responsibility to promote freedom to free people from the clutches of barbaric people such as Saddam Hussein who tortured and mutilated. There were mass graves that we had found.

The DNC video, by contrast, is hard-hitting. While it does not use the disputed memos that have attracted so much attention over the past week, the ad accuses Bush of using family connections to avoid service in Vietnam. Viewers see footage of Ben Barnes, former speaker of the house and lieutenant governor of Texas, taken from the September 8, 2004, airing of 60 Minutes. (Barnes is also a fundraiser for John Kerry, something 60 Minutes noted in the original broadcast but does not appear in the DNC video.)

Barnes: And I recommended a lot of people for the National Guard during the Vietnam era--as Speaker of the House and as Lieutenant Governor.

Rather: And you recommended George W. Bush?

Barnes: Yes, I did.

Rather: When you said that you did this for others, what can only be called preferential treatment for President Bush. Would you describe it as that?

Barnes: Oh, I would describe it as preferential treatment.

With NBC asking the DNC to pull the ad, CBS will likely be left with little choice but to do the same. Will it be the first of several steps the network will take to restore its badly shaken credibility? We'll see.

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard and author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America (HarperCollins).