Mitt Romney's team plans to meet with NBC to address the network's request his campaign pull an ad attacking Newt Gingrich that uses NBC Nightly News footage from 1997.
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"We will sit down with the lawyers and talk to the folks at NBC and make a decision on that front," Romney told Matt Lauer on TODAY from Jacksonville, Fla., where he is campaigning in advance of Tuesday's primary.Video: Romney: Gingrich attacks ‘painful to watch’ (on this page)
"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."
In the Romney ad, then-NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw delivers the news that Gingrich had been sanctioned by members of the Republican Party and had been asked to step down as Speaker of the House. It is one of a series of ads the Romney campaign has employed against Gingrich to slow down his momentum following his victory in the South Carolina GOP primary.
While the ads are apparently working — a new NBC News/Marist poll shows Romney leading Gingrich by 15 points in Florida — NBC has asked for the Nightly News footage to be pulled. "The NBC Legal Department has written a letter to the campaign asking for the removal of all NBC News material from their campaign ads," said Lauren Kapp, NBC senior vice president for marketing and communications.
Brokaw has also voiced discomfort with appearing in the ad. "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."
But Romney told Lauer Monday he believes the TV ad hits Gingrich where it hurts — and since it is newscast footage, the Gingrich campaign cannot accuse him of distorting his record.Video: Romney takes wide lead in new NBC poll (on this page)
"I think the reason it was so effective as an ad was that this was not something that Speaker Gingrich could say had been distorted or that Romney was telling things that were not accurate," Romney said.
"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, (it is) 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 not out in the open."
Lauer asked Romney if he believed his lead in the Florida polls comes more from his getting his message out or instead, tearing down Gingrich. Romney replied, "Well, there's no question politics ain't bean bags. The speaker has been attacking me all over the state in ways that are really extraordinary," Romney said, adding, "The fact is he worked with hundreds of people in Washington, and only a handful of people are willing to support him."
In a report in Sunday's New York Times, Romney campaign advisor David Kochel called the pressure campaign it launched on Gingrich in Florida a "let's rush the quarterback" strategy. And the Times suggested that "if Romney does win here on Tuesday, it will have been through a blistering and unrelenting series of attacks."
Romney told Lauer his campaign is merely fighting fire with fire, as the former speaker's hard-hitting TV ads against Romney paved the way for his victory in South Carolina.Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics (on this page)
"We were getting just walked on by Speaker Gingrich and really didn't respond very well in South Carolina," he said. "So we decided, we're going to respond."
He added, "These messages I think are connecting with people and my expectation is I will become the nominee. So however long that takes I'm going to keep on battling."
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