There’s an old political adage: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” David Woodard, a political consultant for Republicans like Lindsey Graham and Trey Gowdy, said: “That’s dead now, if you pick a fight with them, I think it kind of helps you, and I don’t think many people care.” We are now in a time where conservative radio hosts side with a politician who assaulted a reporter, a GOP governor tweets that a journalist is “a sick man,” and the president of the United States refers to the mainstream media as an “enemy of the people.”
It seems that the Republican party has embraced a deliberate strategy to not only run against their opponents but against the media. Take the case of Greg Gianforte, the Montana politician who body slammed Ben Jacobs after persistent questions about healthcare. Even though Gianforte was charged with assault, he still went on to win the election. Additionally, during the James Comey hearing, he provided information that discredited two reports one from CNN and the other from the New York Times. Both articles relied on anonymous sources.
Sources also point to individual journalist comments on social media to prove that the media is biased. For example yesterday a staff writer for the Atlantic was discovered posting explicit comments about the President and got caught deleting them. These are things the GOP is looking to use at commercials in the 2018 election. Here are some of the tweets uncovered by journalist posted by a “Atlantic”, staff writer Vann R. Newkirk II.
No one is saying that politicians ought to “body slam” reporters. But, Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University advertising expert who advises congressional and gubernatorial election campaigns said, “There are some people who think this is their comeuppance: ‘You’ve been strutting around with no accountability, and maybe you should be held accountable.’”
So there are now Republican strategists and party leaders who admit that what started as genuine anger at perceived unfair coverage is now an integral part of the political strategy for next year’s congressional campaigns. The media has become an easy target. One survey done in May by Quinnipiac University found that 58% of voters disapprove of the way the media has covered Trump. Confidence in the media has dropped to the lowest in Gallup’s history at 32%. Berkovitz said, “You look at how the press is perceived in any kind of opinion survey at the moment, and the press is right down there with Donald Trump. The press is held with disgust and contempt. Battling the press isn’t a bad strategy.”
What do you think about the GOP strategy to run against the media in the coming campaigns?
Credit: McClatchy DC Bureau