By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Oct 31, 2011 at 11:00 AM

The most generous analysis of Herman Cain's smoking video came Sunday, from Mike Gousha on Channel 12's "UpFront." He was quoting some political talk that maybe, just maybe, it was on purpose.

The idea was to get those evil liberal pundits to obsess on the cigarette in the mouth of Cain's campaign manager, Wisconsin's own Mark Block. That would strengthen Cain among his conservative Tea Party base.

That sounds pretty generous.

Before we go any further, here's the complete one-minute video:


In 2011, ending a brief spot like with a rumpled guy taking a drag on  cigarette raises more question than it should.  It also prompted lots of comedy and parody videos.

One of the funnier came from the daughters of another Republican presidential candidate, John Huntsman:

More seriously, Cain took some heat for the video on the weekend talking head shows, and was scolded by Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation."

First, Cain offered an explanation for the bizarre little end to the spot:

"Mark Block is a smoker, and we say ‘Let Mark be Mark.’ That’s all we’re trying to say, because we believe ‘let people be people.’"

Schieffer didn't buy it.

"I had cancer that’s smoking related. I don’t think it serves the country well, and this is an editorial opinion here, to be showing someone smoking a cigarette. ... I would suggest that perhaps as the frontrunner you would want to raise the level of the campaign."

Frankly, the whole discussion was unnecessary, but Cain made it happen with the posting of the video on his website. Internet videos have become an important part of the media campaign over the past few elections.

They're a relatively cheap way to spread a specific message, often by getting picked up by TV news outlets.

But they require thought.

Either they add to a campaign, or don't post them. If you raise questions with something inexplicable in the video, you'd better have quick, smart answers.

"Let Mark be Mark" isn't a good answer.

Brian Williams rocks tonight: NBC anchor Brian Williams launches his "Rock Center" tonight at 9 on Channel 4.

The news magazine is supposed to be hard newsy to have attracted Ted Koppell (who still seems angry that ABC's "Nightline" is too soft). But the promos for the show had a "30 Rock" feel to them.

It remains to be seen whether they can merge those two moods and attract viewers. By the way, tonight's premiere is supposed to feature an appearance by fake news anchor Jon Stewart from Comedy Central's "Daily Show."

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.