Network TV Ad Cops Sleeping as Obama's DNC Mangles Romney Clips Out of Context

Last week, the Democrats screamed that a Mitt Romney ad took Barack Obama’s 2008 words out of context. All three networks leaped on that complaint. This week, the Democratic National Committee put out an ad that shamelessly takes Mitt Romney out of context. None of the network’s context cops are noticing. This is not an encouraging sign of fairness and balance on the ad watch.

Last week, ABC’s Jake Tapper denounced Romney’s ad as “so out of context, it’s false.” On Monday’s World News, Tapper ran a short clip of the DNC ad, but made zero effort to assess its accuracy. In the four-minute montage the DNC is running at, mangling Mitt's context begins within 15 seconds:

Romney in one clip says “I’ve never supported the president’s Recovery Act, the stimulus. No time, nowhere, no how.” The graphic says “OPPOSED THE STIMULUS.” Then it flips to “AFTER HE WAS FOR IT.” Romney is quoted saying on TV that “I think there is need for economic stimulus.”

That ought to tip off any ad cop. Suggesting there’s a need for stimulus is hardly the same as supporting an Obama proposal. A quick Nexis search finds the clip is from a Romney interview on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on January 4, 2009. Romney expresses support for a Republican kind of stimulus, and he doesn’t say “I support Obama’s Recovery Act” – because Obama hasn’t been inaugurated yet. Romney explicitly opposed a “Christmas tree” for Obama constituencies, which is exactly what the stimulus became.

BLITZER: He's talking about a $750 billion economic stimulus package. He wants it to be passed as soon as possible. It's unclear if whether it can be passed before he's inaugurated on January 20th. What do you think about this proposal?

ROMNEY: Well, I frankly wish that the last Congress would have dealt with the stimulus issue and that the president could assign that before leaving office. I think there is need for economic stimulus. Americans have lost about $11 trillion in net worth. That translates into about $400 billion a year less spending that they'll be doing, and that's net of additional government programs like Medicaid and unemployment insurance. And government can help make that up in a very difficult time. And that's one of the reasons why I think a stimulus program is needed.

I'd move quickly. These are unusual times. But it has to be something which relieves pressure on middle-income families. I think a tax cut is necessary for them as well as for businesses that are growing. We'll be investing in infrastructure and in energy technologies. But let's not make this a Christmas tree of all of the favors for various politicians who have helped out the Obama campaign, giving them special projects. That would be wrong. You'll see Republicans fight that tooth and nail if that happens. Let's do what's right for the economy, and let's not do what's a political expedient move.

But that’s not the only Mitt-mangling in the ad. About three minutes in, the DNC flagrantly plays fast and loose with Romney clips again. They show Romney telling Neil Cavuto on Fox that the TARP bailout was the “right thing to do,” but then tried to suggest Romney then opposed TARP when he said on CNN that  “TARP ought to be ended.” The DNC ad said the first position was “YES,” then “YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING,” and the second position was “NO.” They ran the tiny Mitt snippet "TARP ought to be ended" twice, with a rewind effect.

Even on its face, any political reporter knows you could favor TARP and yet still claim it was time for it to be ended without it being categorized as a flip-flop. Voters might fault Romney for favoring TARP, but proposing it be ended isn’t “opposing” TARP. At best, a look at the clips suggested Romney favored TARP as an emergency measure under Bush, but didn’t like the way it was being manipulated by Team Obama a year later. Romney said "TARP has served its purpose. TARP ought to be ended."

Naturally, the DNC had to avoid Romney’s entire point to Cavuto on January 28, 2010, which was that TARP was necessary, but the Obama stimulus was a big failure:

ROMNEY: I think, had President Bush and Secretary Paulson and Ben Bernanke not pushed for a TARP-type program, we were going to be in a freefall that would cause the collapse of not just a few banks on Wall Street, but banks all over the country, killing not only a few jobs, but all the jobs in this country. That`s what we were facing. And the TARP program kept that from occurring. And, fortunately, the money is now being repaid. And that`s the right thing to happen.

But the big loss -- and this is of course what a lot of folks are doing, is diverting attention from the real failure of the last year, this lost year, where President Obama and Congress spent $787 billion, and got nothing to show for it. They said they would unemployment at 8 percent. it rose to 10. That was the number that was supposed to happen without that plan. Look, that was the failure. TARP got paid back. And it kept the financial system from collapsing.

CAVUTO: So, you feel it was well worth it?

ROMNEY: Well, it was the right thing to do.

On December 6, 2009, here is the fuller context of Romney’s remarks on CNN’s State of the Union with John King:

KING: Let's look at some of the proposals he will lay out on Tuesday. It sounds like you'd agree with some of them. I'm guessing you don't think they go far enough, but here is what we are told the president will do at his job summit ideas. A cash for caulkers, they're now calling it, people weatherize their home. You give them some incentives. The idea is you get more energy-efficient homes, and you also hire people to come in and put in the new windows and take the other steps. Tax credits for businesses who hire new workers. A payroll tax holiday. Access to TARP -- that's the bailout funds -- for small banks, and an extension of unemployment benefits. Is that a good down payment, a good plan, in your view?

ROMNEY: A number of those things reflect a good start. But they're not going to get the economy going again alone. You're going to have to have something far more substantial than that. And by the way, TARP has served its purpose. TARP ought to be ended. We've got hundreds of billions of dollars there that is being used as a slush fund by Secretary Geithner and the Obama administration. Stop the TARP recklessness at this point and get ourselves back to creating jobs by encouraging businesses to grow, expand their capital expenditures and hire. And by the way, when you give people special incentives just to hire new employees, of course you give them an incentive to let current employees go. The best thing to do is to lower the payroll tax and to give businesses tax credits for making investment.

Let's recall how the crew on the Early Show on CBS dismissed Romney as "absurd" for his ad, and claimed context is important, no matter which party is mangling words. (Put aside for the moment the Dan Rather Lying Network pronouncing outrage about context.)

CHRIS WRAGGE: In context, out of context- does it really matter these days? I mean-

ERICA HILL: Context, shmontext --

WRAGGE: (laughs) It's a little absurd, I think. Anybody watching that- a little bit absurd. Okay. Here's Jeff Glor at the news desk with a check of today's other headlines for us this morning. Jeff, good morning.

JEFF GLOR: I think it matters-

HILL: Kind of?

WRAGGE: (laughs) Yeah, it should-

GLOR: It matters quite a bit, actually-
HILL: It tends to be important-

GLOR: No matter which side you're on-

HILL: Absolutely. It does not matter- the side.

Obviously, it does matter which side. Once again, the networks are letting Democrats off the hook for mangling TV clips of Republicans.

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