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Payback time?

Fox News and Chris Wallace are suing Democrat Robin Carnahan’s campaign for Senate in Missouri, charging that one of their ad spots infringed on the network’s copyright of an interview Wallace did with Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), in 2006. Blunt is running against Carnahan in a heated battle for the state’s open seat.

Fox News, in a filing in U.S. District Court in Missouri, says that the Carnahan ad makes it appear as if Fox News is endorsing her. The spot, titled “Clean Up the House,” features a clip of Blunt being put on the spot by Wallace, questioning him about his interactions with lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff. The suit was first reported on the THR Esq. blog.

The suit states, “FNC is a news organization that has not endorsed a candidate in the 2010 Missouri senatorial race. The value of its news reporting is based in part upon the public’s faith in the accuracy and integrity of those reports. By including the FNS Interview in an advertisement endorsing a specific political candidate, Defendant harmed the value of the original work by compromising its apparent objectivity.”

They say that the way the spot was edited makes it appear as if “Wallace — a trusted journalist — is speaking as a campaign operative.

“Wallace’s tough questions were included, but Blunt’s answers and explanations were not.”

Carnahan’s campaign has taken down the ad from its website with the message, “The interview with Roy Blunt that Fox News doesn’t want you to see has been temporarily removed. Check back soon.” Campaigns routinely run clips from news interviews in their ad spots, with the legal defense of fair use.

The animosity between Fox and Democrats spilled out into the legal realm earlier this month when the Democratic Governors Assn. filed a complaint against the network charging that a Fox News appearance by Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich amounted to an in-kind campaign contribution, as Kasich solicited contributions for his campaign.

Update: A video of the ad in question is here.

Carnahan’s campaign is now raising money off the lawsuit, and is not wasting the opportunity to just repeat what the ad says. “We stand behind our ad — because we believe we have the right to make
sure voters see it. We’ll continue to tell the truth about Congressman
Blunt’s attempt to slip a secret provision into the Homeland Security
Act to benefit tobacco giant Philip Morris, while he was dating the
company’s lobbyist. And we will tell the truth about Congressman Blunt’s
14 year record of wasteful spending, corruption and sticking it to the
middle class, a record that represents the very worst of Washington.”