How FOX News Is Destroying the GOP
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Poor Mitt Romney has become a Republican punching bag as leaders within the party denounce his post-election comments about how President Obama won re-election by promising government-funded "gifts" to minority groups and young voters. As Republicans jab Romney though, they're missing the larger, more pressing point: They don't have a Mitt Romney problem. They have a Fox News problem.
Romney's "gifts" put-down echoed the infamous claim Romney made during the campaign that 47 percent of Americans see themselves as "victims" and are overly dependent on the government. With the campaign concluded, lots of fellow Republicans now feel free to bash Romney:
• "It's nuts," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
• "I absolutely reject what he said," announced Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
• "When you're in a hole, stop digging. He keeps digging," complained Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Though prominent conservatives are now lashing out at the former presidential candidate, the truth is Fox News has loudly championed the divisive philosophy behind Romney's "47 percent" and "gifts" comments for months and practically authored them for the Republican candidate. Last week Fox talkers cheeredRomney's "gifts" post-election critique, treating it as a universal truth. (According to Fox Business host Stuart Varney, Obama was "buying votes with taxpayer money. Handouts all over the place.")
And it's not just a Fox News problem. Republicans have an even more expansive right-wing media problem (television, radio, Internet, etc.), which now doubles as the face and voice of the GOP and which celebratesthe kind of toxic "47 percent" and "gifts" rhetoric that's being condemned within the party. The far-right press is convinced Obama won re-election by "offering" voters a "check" in exchange for their support.
As Media Matters noted:
Fox host Bill O'Reilly said that voters feel economic anxiety and just "want stuff," while Fox host Eric Bolling said Obama is a "maker versus taker guy." Fox contributor Monica Crowley said that the election showed that "more people now are dependent on government than not." Rush Limbaugh compared the president to Santa Claus, saying that "small things beat big things" in the election and "people are not going to vote against Santa Claus."
In fact, O'Reilly and Limbaugh rushed to take credit for Romney's "gifts" comments last week, since both of them had been pushing the "maker vs. taker" narrative in the wake of Romney's election loss.
The split over Romney's "gifts" remark highlights the larger divide within the conservative movement between two distinct camps: activists and politicians who want to get more Republicans elected vs. right-wing media players who want to grow their audience.
Note that after the Republican flop on Election Day, talk radio's Laura Ingraham dismissed conservative hand-wringers who worried about the political future by stressing that "talk radio continues to thrive while moderate Republicans like John McCain and to some extent Mitt Romney continue to lose presidential elections." That's how hosts like Ingraham view the political landscape. That's how they determine success and failure, not by tallying the wins and losses posted by Republicans candidates, but by counting up the number of radio stations that carry their syndicated show.
The same is true with Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson. Asked why the conservative media completely failed in their attempt to "vet" Obama, who easily won re-election despite four years of hysterical, far-right claims about him, Carlson told BuzzFeed his publication's work had been a success because traffic to the site was up. (Carlson also blamed the "legacy media" for being hostile to his site's supposed "journalism.")
I'm sure that's comforting news to RNC leadership. And I'm sure the Daily Caller chasing inane, anti-Obama conspiracy theories for the next four years will put the Republican Party on firm footing for 2016.