CNN explained how conservative radio personalities have created a climate that allowed extreme Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to become the party's front-runners. In turn, Cruz and Trump have frequently praised far-right radio hosts and recycled their talking points.
Politico highlighted the "tension inside conservative media" over the rivalry between Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and explained that the tension has some figures "straddl[ing] the divide" in order to gin up ratings, drive candidates further to the right, and deny "airtime to the more moderate contenders they so disdain."
Prominent media figures have noted that Trump and Cruz have each gained popularity among Republican voters and conservative media figures by "espousing orthodox conservative views" and echoing conservative talk radio falsehoods. The two candidates have enjoyed symbiotic relationships with conservative media, wherein they have praised them for positive coverage of their campaigns, and for taking GOP messaging "directly to the people." Conservative media have, in return, defended both Trump and Cruz from public backlash in the wake of controversial statements and policy positions. But the rivalry between the two candidates began to create a schism within conservative media when National Review and 22 conservative media figures released an anti-Trump article, kicking off a GOP civil war.
This tension was highlighted in a January 25 Politico article, by Eli Stokols and Hadas Gold, who detailed how Trump's "brand of politics has increasingly become aligned with the conservative radio talkers and bloggers" and has thus complicated Cruz's courtship of right-wing media. Stokols and Gold explained that the rivalry is exacerbated within right-wing media because although Trump has committed "transgressions with conservative orthodoxy," he drives ratings and his hardline positions push other GOP candidates "further to the right." Because Trump's "rhetoric and stated policy positions appeal to so many conservative listeners and readers that covering them generates ratings gold," the article explained, conservative talk radio hosts have been carefully "straddl[ing] the divide":
Ted Cruz worked early and hard to cultivate the support of the most important voices in conservative talk radio and on the web and was rewarded with an army of defenders who have for nearly a year inoculated him from criticism, advanced his message and bashed his rivals on a daily basis.
No more. With just days to go before the Iowa caucuses, Cruz's wires into conservative media have gotten crossed by Donald Trump.
While opinion-makers on the right found it easy to dismiss Cruz's earlier rivals - from Marco Rubio and Rand Paul to Jeb Bush - Trump has proved a tougher foil. That's partly because his rhetoric and stated policy positions appeal to so many conservative listeners and readers that coverage generates ratings gold.
But it's also because leading voices in conservative media recognize, and appreciate, that it has been Trump, even more than Cruz, who has driven the 2016 field to the right.
But while Levin, Laura Ingraham and Glenn Beck, among others, all came to Cruz's defense during the height of the "birther" attacks, the Cruz campaign now sees some of the leading figures in talk radio helping build a bulwark against Trump. Trump's brand of politics has increasingly become aligned with the conservative radio talkers and bloggers, who have expanded their audiences by provoking grassroots activists, amplifying hardline positions and pushing Republicans further and further to the right.
Suddenly, some of Cruz's consistent supporters in the right-wing media are hedging their bets. Limbaugh, for example, has carefully straddled the divide; while giving his full-throated support to Cruz, Limbaugh has praised Trump's tactics, noting that, to his broad base of support, the tycoon represents "opportunity," "newness" and the "breaking out of whatever it is that's got us shackled." Laura Ingraham, a staunch Cruz defender, also initially validated Trump's questioning of the Texas senator's U.S. citizenship before changing her mind and stating that the question has been resolved. But just days ago, Ingraham pointed out to her listeners Cruz's flip flops on free trade and immigration reform.
Right-wing media are dismissing GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's attacks on Ted Cruz's (R-TX) "natural-born" citizenship, calling his questions over Cruz's eligibility to be president "intellectually dishonest."
Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently announced his support for a "convention of the states," an idea heavily promoted by conservative media figures, particularly conservative radio host and author Mark Levin. Constitutional scholars and Supreme Court Justices have said that if enacted, the idea dangerously opens up the U.S. Constitution to outside influences.
Rubio announced his support for the initiative during December campaign stops in Iowa, saying, "One of the things I'm going to do on my first day is office is I will put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states." He described it as "the only way that we are ever going to get term limits on members of Congress or the judiciary and that is the only way we are ever going to get a balanced-budget amendment."
His official campaign website followed up with a post saying, "Marco supports establishing a Convention of the States with the sole purpose of passing amendments to limit the power of the federal government: like implementing term limits, requiring a balanced budget, and sending power out of Washington, back to the states." The campaign promised, "On the campaign trail, Marco's going to keep talking up the Convention of the States." The site also embedded a post from Levin highlighting Rubio's endorsement of his idea.
The idea of a constitutional convention has gotten attention from other Republican politicians as well. Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) recently endorsed the convention of the states, describing it as "the Texas Plan to restore the Rule of Law and return the Constitution to its intended purpose." He appeared on Levin's radio show and on The Kelly File on Fox News to discuss his decision.
The convention of the states proposal is based on Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress can call a convention for proposing amendments if two-thirds of state legislatures formally make a proposal. This is a departure from how the 27 previous amendments to the Constitution have passed, where Congress has passed the amendments and then sent them down to the states to be ratified.
While the idea has been at the fringes of the conservative movement for decades, Levin gave a huge boost to the proposal in his 2013 book The Liberty Amendments. In an interview with the conservative news site CNSNews, Levin said his proposal "is the only way out" because "The federal government, Congress, the Supreme Court, the president, the bureaucracy, they are not going to reform themselves, they are not going to limit their activities. Only we can--through our state representatives from the bottom up."
Conservative media outlets promoted Levin and the book's ideas. Sean Hannity turned over an entire episode of his Fox News show (with a studio audience) to interviewing Levin about The Liberty Amendments.
Rush Limbaugh urged his listeners to buy the "wonderful book," and said "something" like a convention of the states "is going to be necessary, because the Constitution is broken."
On his radio show, Glenn Beck said Levin had "made that case" for a convention. In a story published on Breitbart.com and FrontPageMag.com, Spyridon Mitsotakis wrote that Levin "has now shown us a way that we the people can save ourselves." Michelle Malkin called the book "a bold, provocative manual for restoring the American republic and righting the balance of powers." Hugh Hewitt told his listeners to go into bookstores and "If you can't find it, demand that they put it up front." On Fox's Your World, host Neil Cavuto interviewed Levin and recommended reading the book "to get some historical perspective of what the hell is going on." On The Five, co-host Eric Bolling called the book "fantastic."
Before he had declared his candidacy, Donald Trump called it "a truly great & important book."
Coinciding with the release of Levin's book, a campaign called Convention of the States, which is a project of another group called Citizens for Self-Governance , was formed in order to organize and promote the concept at the state level. In a blog post, Citizens for Self-Governance said the Convention of the States is "a grassroots plan to implement the important ideas Mark Levin has begun to publicly advocate." The post also promoted Levin's Hannity appearance: "Tune in to watch Levin on Hannity Friday, then go visit our website at www.ConventionOfStates.com and see how you can get involved and play a part in history."
Those two groups are led by Michael Farris and Mark Meckler. Meckler was the co-founder of the group Tea Party Patriots. Meckler recently described Rubio's endorsement as a "game-changer" for his campaign and hailed him for pushing the idea into "the mainstream of presidential politics."
Levin told Conservative Review "I have wholeheartedly endorsed the Convention of the States project" and "I serve on its Legal Board of Reference because they propose a solution as big as the problem. And they are promoting state applications for a convention for the purpose of limiting the scope, power and jurisdiction of the federal government. And that's what needs to be done."
The Convention of the States website also features testimonials from conservative media figures like Hannity, Beck, Allen West, and Sarah Palin.
In an April 2015 report on the movement to call a new convention with the aim of passing a balanced budget amendment, the Washington Post reported on the possible pitfalls of this amendment process. They note, "the founding document is silent on how such a convention would operate," and add, "There's no indication that a convention could be limited to just one topic. Hypothetically, delegates could take up any issue they wanted, from reinstating Prohibition to eliminating the direct election of senators. More extreme scenarios envision delegates revisiting the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery, or inserting corporate giveaways into the Constitution."
Figures on both the left and right have pointed out that such a convention would be dangerous.
Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe said the process would be "putting the whole Constitution up for grabs."
Even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia has described the idea as dangerous, noting, "I certainly would not want a constitutional convention. Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it?"
The late Justice Arthur Goldberg also criticized the idea, saying, "There is no enforceable mechanism to prevent a convention from reporting out wholesale changes to our Constitution and Bill of Rights." In 1983 Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote, a "Constitutional Convention today would be a free-for-all for special interest groups."
Slate's Jamelle Bouie writes, "It's worth noting that this renewed push" for a constitutional convention "comes at a time the United States is becoming younger, browner, and more liberal. For a movement whose electoral health is tied to an aging population of white conservatives, it's increasingly now or never for right-wing ideologues, or at least, moves that block liberals from achieving their goals."
As President Obama delivered his final address to Congress on the State Of The Union, conservative media personalities attacked him on Twitter, calling him "divisive," a liar, and mocking his policy proposals.
Right-wing media personalities have incessantly attacked President Obama's six previous State of the Union addresses -- from calling the speeches "boring" to questioning his decision to invite a wounded veteran to the event -- and have even frequently waged the attacks before the addresses even occurred. Ahead of Obama's January 12 State of the Union address, Media Matters looks back at conservative media's long history of attacking annual addresses.
Before President Obama made his first official State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, right-wing media pundits called the speech "stupid" "propaganda." Fox host Sean Hannity repeatedly referred to the upcoming speech as "propaganda," and former Fox host Glenn Beck told his viewers "you don't even have to watch this stupid speech tonight. I'll watch it for you so you don't have to." Beck added, "I want to hang myself over watching this." Fox Business' John Stossel asked Obama to use the address to apologize for being "arrogant." After his speech, media personalities criticized Obama, and claimed he didn't show enough humility. Stossel said Obama "certainly didn't sound humbled," and only a few minutes into the address, National Review's John Hood criticized Obama's "cadence and rhythm" for coming "across as flippant and arrogant." The talking point wasn't anything new -- frequent Fox guest Ben Stein had predicted that "we'll see Obama with his fake modesty and his fake humility" before the speech took place. Once again, Glenn Beck joined the chorus: "the arrogance from the moment this guy walked in, the arrogance -- there's no humility there."
President Obama made his second State of the Union address on January 25, 2011, and the media predicted it would focus on theatrics instead of substance. Rush Limbaugh directed his listeners to watch a Golf Channel show he appeared in instead of the address, predicting that Obama would "lie for an hour and fifteen minutes." On Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned whether Obama would be sincere, suggesting that the president was merely trying "to make sure he gets re-elected." After the speech, Limbaugh continued to attack Obama's sincerity, saying Obama "just doesn't believe" the "pro-America rah-rah" featured in the speech and suggesting that the speech was plagiarized. Fox & Friends' recap of the debate called the speech "boring."
Continuing their tradition of attacking Obama prior to the address, Fox News hosts criticized the focus on economic security and income equality. On Fox & Friends Kilmeade said that Obama would "bring up the class warfare stuff," while co-host Steve Doocy forcasted that it would "ignite the whole class warfare thing." Co-host of Fox's The Five , Andrea Tantaros predicted the address would be a "very divisive, very evil speech" that is "designed to get people in the audience who are sitting home on their duffs ... angry at their neighbors who are actually going out, who are working hard."
After the address, right-wing media largely continued their "class warfare" narrative. Fox's Doocy doubled down against Obama's focus on income inequality, saying that his comments regarding billionaires paying the same percentage of taxes as their secretaries were intended "to kick off his class warfare campaign." Fox Business' Dave Ramsey even claimed Obama "declared war on success in the name of this class warfare politics."
After President Obama's February 12, 2013 State of the Union Speech, right-wing radio host Mark Levin accused Obama of "lying to the American people" in a "Castro-like speech." Levin criticized the economy under Obama claiming he keeps "proposing more programs, more trusts, more partnerships, more agencies, more spending." A Fox Nation headline echoed Levin's comments: "Obama Pleads For Billions In New Deficit Spending." That same post, however, linked to a FoxNews.com article that reported the full transcript of Obama's comments, explaining that his proposals would be "fully paid for" and that "nothing [he's] proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."
Before the January 28, 2014 State of the Union, Fox News once again downplayed the address, asking, "Does it matter what the president says?" After the address, Rush Limbaugh was critical of Obama's guest, wounded Army Ranger Cory Remsburg's presence. Limbaugh claimed that Obama invited a wounded veteran to the address to say "look what George Bush is responsible for." Right-wing media also pounced on Obama's comments that climate change demands urgent action and that the debate over it is "settled." Their evidence against the claim? Cold weather and snow across the country.
In the most memorable vitriol from President Obama's January 20, 2015 State of the Union, Rush Limbaugh told his audience he had already written his response before the address: "I hope he fails." Limbaugh then bragged that "that has been my State of the Union response every year. I hope he fails. It is what it is. You can't get more clear cut than that." On his January 21 show, Limbaugh rehashed his reasoning behind boycotting the speech saying that he would have been "insulted as a conservative" and "lied to" and that the address would have been the "next Santa Claus list."
Note: this analysis did not include Obama's 2009 Address to Joint Session of Congress.
From the January 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Radio host Mark Levin responded to an editorial from The Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens that criticized right-wing media for their obsession with electing an ideologically pure conservative candidate at the expense of electability. Levin attacked Stephens as a "mouthpiece for amnesty" and "a jester for big government Republicans."
In a December 21 editorial, Stephens claimed conservatives are building a wall around the Republican Party by supporting a frontrunner who insults "Mexicans, Muslims ... and others." Stephens highlighted conservative desire to elect a candidate that "has passed all the Conservative Purity Tests (CPTs), meaning we've upheld the honor of our politically hopeless cause." Stephens concluded that this nonsensical ideology would alienate "not just Hispanics, or Asian-Americans or gays and lesbians, but also moderates turned off by loudmouth vulgarians" and lose elections.
Mark Levin responded in a Facebook post attacking Stephens, calling him a "mouthpiece for amnesty" and claiming "the WSJ helped deliver us two terms of Obama with their early and constant propaganda for McCain and Romney":
Funny. Last week I posted that Fox's attacks on conservatives are going to elect Hillary. Next thing you know, a WSJ editorial page staffer, paid by Murdoch who also owns Fox, accuses me of the same thing. Bret Stephens is a mouthpiece for amnesty, like the rest of the amnesty ideologues at the WSJ. And he's a jester for big government Republicans and corporatists. He's part of the same lame crowd that trashed the Tea Party over the debt. That would be the Tea Party that delivered the GOP both houses of Congress and record state legislative and gubernatorial victories. Conversely, Stephens and his ilk backed Boehner to the end as they back McConnell and Ryan now. Even Ryan is criticizing the Boehner budget process. And the WSJ helped deliver us two terms of Obama with their early and constant propaganda for McCain and Romney.
Meanwhile, the GOP and Stephens celebrate one of the lousiest budgets in modern times and, of course, attack conservative critics as purest hellbent on electing Hillary. Does it get any dumber than these guys? Delusional. Unprincipled. Cronies. I'll have more to say upon my return to the airwaves early next year.
Conservative media lambasted House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) after the passage of a year-end budget package, calling it "an absolute betrayal" and saying that "Paul Ryan" is "already a disaster" for delivering "wins" to President Obama in a move that will "boost the candidacy of the Republican establishment's preferred contenders."
From the December 16 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the December 15 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Conservative radio hosts criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for calling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a "maniac," but previously supported Trump after he came under attack for suggesting the United States ban all Muslims from entering the country, for falsely claiming that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered during the 9/11 attacks, and for characterizing all Hispanic immigrants as criminals.
Conservative talk radio hosts defended GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) after Republican front-runner Donald Trump attacked Cruz, calling him a "maniac"
From the December 14 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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Right-wing talk radio hosts lashed out at Republican Party leaders and the "Republican establishment" for considering a brokered convention to avoid selecting Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee, charging that the Republican establishment "doesn't listen to the people" and that the establishment is calling "you the people ... stupid."