Obama's Jimmy Fallon appearance violated campaign law

Ben Shapiro at points out something that apparently didn’t occur to anybody who planned President Obama’s creepy love-fest appearance on Wednesday night’s Jimmy Fallon show: it was a blatant violation of campaign law.

The equal time rule states that if a licensee permits a person “who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station.”

There are exceptions to the rule: appearances on (1) a bona fide newscast, (2) a bona fide news interview, (3) a bona fide news documentary, or (4) on-the-spot coverage of bona fide news events.

Only the second provision could be construed as saving NBC from giving Mitt Romney equal time. But this was not a bona fide news interview. In fact, it wasn’t an interview at all – no questions were asked, no answers were given. It was literally Obama reading a campaign speech over a guitar, a horn, a keyboard, and some drums.

(Emphasis mine.)  It will be fun to watch Obama’s legal team, and the media, explain how an “interview” can occur in the complete absence of questions.  Maybe they’ll aruge that Obama doesn’t really answer questions anyway.

Shapiro also makes a strong case that Obama’s appearance was a massive and illegal in-kind campaign contribution by NBC – a five-minute campaign commercial worth millions of dollars – for which they should “be punished to the fullest extent of the law.” 

It’s hard to imagine how they could fully compensate Mitt Romney with equal time, since Fallon and his crew are unlikely to make doe eyes at Romney and offer him a musical serenade while he reads a campaign speech, at least not without a heavy layer of irony.  Also, the Obama appearance happened just as Romney was wrapping up the Republican nomination, making the true value of NBC’s fabulous in-kind donation more difficult to determine.

This will probably get waved off as another one of those silly little laws that His Majesty doesn’t have to acknowledge, like the one that requires him to submit a plan to address Medicare insolvency, or the one that compels the Senate to pass a budget.  Warning to the Romney campaign: do not assume that you get to violate campaign finance laws with impunity, too.