A Brief History Of Conservative Anger At “Propagandist” Karl Rove And His “Repulsive” Political Group

The GOP civil war continues to intensify, with numerous prominent conservative media figures lashing out at Karl Rove in recent days over vehement disagreements about the direction of the party. This is far from the first incident pitting Rove against fellow right-wing media figures. In recent years, conservative media personalities -- many of whom work with Rove at Fox News -- have called Rove a “propagandist,” “not a conservative,” and an “effete sore loser” who heads an “absolutely repulsive” political group.

The New York Times reported on February 2 that Rove, along with allies behind his Crossroads political groups, has decided to launch the Conservative Victory Project. According to the Times, the group will work to “recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts.”

Following the news, Rove quickly became the target of conservative ire, with several media figures accusing him of betraying conservative principles and the Tea Party. The outcry was loud enough that Rove ran to Sean Hannity's Fox News program to do damage control, touting American Crossroads' huge investment in Sen. Marco Rubio (and a few other Tea Party favorites) as proof of his conservatism.

Conservative anger at Rove has been simmering for years, intensifying in the past few months after Rove's Crossroads political groups squandered several hundred million dollars during the 2012 elections.

Conservative Media Figures Slam “Absolutely Repulsive” New Rove Group

The reaction to Rove's Conservative Victory Project from conservative pundits has been swift and harsh:

Mike Huckabee Accuses Rove's “Absolutely Repulsive” Group Of “Fratricide.” During an appearance on fellow Fox host Geraldo Rivera's radio show, Mike Huckabee responded to the formation of the Conservative Victory Project by labeling the concept “absolutely repulsive” and saying that “Karl needs to go through a metamorphosis.” Huckabee accused Rove's group of “fratricide,” and suggested the money his group is spending would be better used building up the Republican Party, rather than trying to destroy candidates that “you don't think is up to your country club level”:

RIVERA: Karl Rove says the Republican Party has to go through a metamorphosis, has to change. You know Bill Kristol says wait a second, the Tea Party's not so bad. Where do you stand?

HUCKABEE: I think Karl needs to go through a metamorphosis. You know this idea that somehow a handful of Republicans are going to attack Republicans that the handful doesn't like? I find that repulsive. I find it absolutely repulsive. This is not how you build a strong Republican Party, is by going after the people in your party who are different than you are. This is fratricide. And if the Republican Party wants to render itself utterly, utterly irrelevant, the best way to do it is to become several little parties within the party, which is apparently what some folks seem to think we ought to do. When you marginalize the Tea Party, marginalize the pro-life and pro-family part of the party, you lose every election coming up in the future. You lose every election. There may be a few local elections that you might win in some places outside the base of the party, but you're not going to win a national election again.


HUCKABEE: If you're going to spend millions of dollars, spend it to build up your Republican, the one you like, not millions to destroy a Republican that you don't think is up to your country club level. I find that just horrendous. [Cumulus Radio Networks, Geraldo2/8/13, via Media Matters]

Mark Levin: Rove A “Propagandist” Who Is “Despised By The Grassroots.” Radio host and frequent Fox News guest Mark Levin has repeatedly leveled criticism at Rove in recent days. In a Facebook post, Levin accused Rove of having “flat out lied” about Rep. Steve King (R-IA), whom the Conservative Victory Project reportedly doesn't support as a possible future Senate candidate.

On the February 7 edition of his radio show, Levin labeled Rove a “propagandist” who wields a “stupid little third-grade whiteboard.” According to Levin, both Rove and the Conservative Victory Project “are poison in conservative and Republican circles in many respects.” Taunting Rove, Levin also urged him to “bring it on, Doughboy.” [Media Matters2/9/13]

Fox Contributor Erick Erickson Suggests Any Candidate Rove Group Supports “Should Be Targeted For Destruction.” Responding to the formation of the Conservative Victory Project, in a post on his RedState blog, newly-minted Fox News contributor Erick Erickson mocked Crossroads for spending “hundreds of millions of rich donors' money and had jack to show for it” during the 2012 election cycle. Erickson suggested that the conservative movement should oppose any candidates supported by the new Rove group:

American Crossroads is creating a new Super PAC to crush conservatives, destroy the tea party, and put a bunch of squishes in Republican leadership positions. Thank God they are behind this. In 2012, they spent hundreds of millions of rich donors' money and had jack to show for it.

It is interesting though. The people who brought us No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, TARP, the GM bailout, Harriet Miers, etc., etc., etc. are really hacked off that people have been rejecting them. In 2012, about the only successful Republican candidates were the ones who directly rejected the legacy of these people.

So now they will up their game. They don't like being shut out. They blame the tea party and conservatives for their failure to win primaries. They'll now try to match conservatives and, in the process, call themselves conservatives.

I dare say any candidate who gets this group's support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement. They've made it really easy not to figure out who the terrible candidates will be in 2014. [RedState, 2/4/12]

Fox Regular Donald Trump Mocks “Total Loser” Rove. In a series of posts on Twitter, frequent Fox News guest and celebrity reality show host Donald Trump pondered why anyone would donate to “total loser” Rove and his new group after Crossroads “just wasted $400M”:

[Twitter.com, 2/7/13; Twitter.com, 2/7/13

“This Is War”: Fox Contributor Michelle Malkin Slams “Rove And His Big Government Band Of Elites” For “Doubling Down On Stupid.” In a post on her website, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin lashed out at “Rove and his big government band of elites,” and labeled Rove's group an “Incumbency Protection Racket”:

This is war.

But of course, for Beltway establishment strategist and GOP control freak Karl Rove, it has been war on grass-roots conservatives for years now. The New York Times reported this weekend that Rove and the deep-pocketed donors whose coffers he drained futilely this past year are doubling down on stupid. Rove, Inc. will re-commit to a new group that will “protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party's effort to win control of the Senate.”

Who needs Obama and his Team Chicago to destroy the Tea Party when you've got Rove and his big government band of elites? [MichelleMalkin.com, 2/4/13]

Frequent Fox Guest Brent Bozell Suggests Rove And Allies “Were Never Conservatives To Begin With.” In a recent column, Media Research Center president and Hannity regular Brent Bozell criticized the electoral track records of Rove and his allies at the Conservative Victory Project and suggested the people behind the group “were never conservatives to begin with”:

In the end, this is not a fight between Democrats and Republicans. This is between the Reaganites and the same old moderate Republicans who insisted Ronald Reagan was far too extreme to be elected in 1976 and then in 1980, when Rove worked for George H. W. Bush. They thought the Doles and McCains were always the smart money against the Democrats. It's a fight between Republicans who want to not only run as conservatives, but govern as conservatives, versus the Bush-Boehner-McConnell never-mind approach.

Conservatism is in no way synonymous with defeat, and “conservative victory” isn't even attempted by those who were never conservatives to begin with. [NewsBusters, 2/5/13

After one of Rove's colleagues at Crossroads labeled Bozell a "hater" for frequently criticizing Republican leaders, several of Bozell's friends (including commentators like Mark Levin) signed a letter attacking Rove and lauding Bozell as a “beloved and critically important player in American history.”

Countless other conservative media figures have also slammed Rove this past week. Terence Jeffrey, editor in chief of the conservative outlet CNS News, claimed that Rove is “not a conservative,” and Breitbart.com editor Ben Shapiro accused Rove of “quietly undermining conservatism” and said his advice helped lead to the “epic Romney defeat.” 

The recent anger at Rove is certainly related to lingering disappointment with his political groups' lack of success during the 2012 elections. Right after the Romney loss, Joseph Farah, CEO and editor of theconservative outlet WND , labeled Rove “The Architect of Defeat.” Farah proposed that the only “honorable thing” for Rove to do “would be to admit his own failure and move on with his life --giving others a chance to steer the ship next time.”

The Fight Over Failed Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell

During the 2010 midterm elections, Christine O'Donnell upset veteran politician Mike Castle for the Republican Party's nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware. O'Donnell's run was backed by Tea Party groups while Castle was heavily supported by establishment Republicans.

Following O'Donnell's victory, Rove said on Fox News: “We were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate. We're now looking at seven to eight. This is not a race we're going to be able to win.” Though he would sometimes backtrack -- in response to criticism, Rove insisted he “endorsed” O'Donnell -- Rove continued to attack O'Donnell.

Rove's remarks about O'Donnell released a torrent of criticism from conservative commentators.

Malkin: “Rove Came Across As An Effete Sore Loser.” Malkin wrote on her website that with his trashing of O'Donnell, Rove "[m]ight as well have been [Keith] Olbermann on MSNBC." She added that “Rove came across as an effete sore loser instead of the supposedly brilliant and grounded GOP strategist that he's supposed to be.” Malkin also appeared on Hannity and attacked Rove for his “vicious” and “incivil” remarks about O'Donnell. [MichelleMalkin.com, 9/14/10; Fox News, Hannity9/15/10]

Erickson: Rove “In Full On Meltdown” On Fox News. In a September 2010 RedState post, Erick Erickson wrote: “It is a delightful morning. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the GOP Establishment, including Karl Rove in full on meltdown last night on Fox News, has been beaten yet again in Delaware by the supposedly crazy girl from the fringe who could not possibly take out the 12 time elected Republican Mike Castle.” [RedState.com, 9/15/10]

Rush Limbaugh: “I've Never Heard Karl So Animated Against A Democrat As He Was Against Christine O'Donnell.” During his radio program, Rush Limbaugh attacked Rove for going after a fellow Republican more harshly than he had with Democrats, saying, “I've never heard Karl so animated against a Democrat as he was against Christine O'Donnell.” Limbaugh also said: “If he had just gotten this mad at Democrats during the Bush administration, why, who knows how things would be different today.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show9/15/10]                                                

Levin: Rove Waging A “War Against The Tea Party Movement And Conservatives.” Levin wrote a September 15, 2010, Twitter post stating that Rove was waging a “war against the Tea Party movement and conservatives.” [Media Matters9/15/10]                                   

Huckabee: “Very Disappointed” In Karl Rove And The “Country Club Attitude.” Politico reported that Huckabee said in a radio interview that he “was very disappointed in some, particularly Karl and others, who were so dismissive of Christine O'Donnell.” [Politico10/24/10]

Sarah Palin To Rove: “Buck Up.” Rove and Palin repeatedly sparred over O'Donnell during the 2010 campaign. Palin told Rove, following O'Donnell's primary victory, to “buck up” and said that “some of these folks, they are saying that people like Christine O'Donnell and others -- tea party Americans - can't win, because they don't want them to win.” Following O'Donnell's loss in the general election, Fox News reported that “the two FNC contributors showed they still haven't come to an agreement” about O'Donnell. [Media Matters11/3/10; FoxNews.com, 11/2/10]

Rove Vs. Palin                                                                     

In the lead-up to the 2012 Republican primary, Palin played coy with her intentions while she appeared on Fox News and her TLC show, Sarah Palin's Alaska. Rove and Palin exchanged numerous shots related to her qualifications to run for president, with Rove's harshest criticism coming when he suggested that she lacked the “gravitas” necessary for the office. 

Here are some of their exchanges:

October 2010: Politico Reports That Republican Leaders Such As Rove “Are Said To Be Concerned She Will Run, And Could Win, According To The Officials.” An October 31, 2010, Politico article reported: “Top Republicans, from presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to highly influential advisers such as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, are said to be concerned she will run, and could win, according to the officials.” [Politico10/31/10]

October 2010: Rove Suggests Palin Lacked The “Gravitas” Required To Be President. An October 27, 2010, article in the U.K. Telegraph reported of an interview it conducted with Rove: “Expressing the strongest public reservations about the conservative star made by any senior Republican figure, Mr Rove said it was unlikely that voters would regard someone starring in a reality show as presidential material.” The Telegraph quoted Rove as suggesting that Palin lacks “a certain level of gravitas” required to be president. Rove later said of his comments about the TLC show, “I didn't mean offense by it, and I'm sorry if she took it. [The Telegraph10/27/10Media Matters11/4/10]

October 2010: Palin Responds To Rove “Gravitas” Remark By Citing Reagan's Background As An ActorOn Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Palin about Rove's “gravitas” comment. Palin responded: “You know, I agree with that, that those standards have to be high for someone who would ever want to run for president, like, umm, wasn't Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn't he in Bedtime for Bonzo, Bozo?” [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday10/31/10, via Media Matters]

October 2010: Palin Calls Rove Attacks “Quite Negative And Unnecessary.” In response to The Telegraph article and other criticisms of her, Palin said on the October 31 edition of Fox News' On the Record that Rove “has planted a few other political seeds out there that are quite negative and unnecessary” and added: “You know what? I kind of feel like, why do they feel so threatened and so paranoid?” Palin also claimed that Rove falsely called her upcoming television series a “reality show.” [Media Matters11/3/10]

November 2010: Rove On Palin: “I Hope She's Got A Thicker Skin Than That.” On his Fox News show, Hannity asked Rove, “Is there any truth to this battle that is going on between you and Governor Palin?” In response, Rove said he was “sorry if she took offense” to his criticism of her reality show and added: “I hope she's got a thicker skin than that because there is going to be a lot of commenting done by a lot of people in the next 13-14 months.” [Fox News, Hannity11/19/10, via Media Matters]

February 2011: Rove Mocks Palin Television Show. New York magazine interviewed Rove for a February 2011 article in which Rove mocked Palin's show:

When I bring up his statements about Palin during our interview, Rove says only that he wished he'd made his comments on Fox News instead--before going into a withering impersonation of Palin, recalling a scene from her TV show in which she's fishing.

“Did you see that?” he says, adopting a high, sniveling Palin accent: " 'Holy crap! That fish hit my thigh! It hurts!' "

“How does that make us comfortable seeing her in the Oval Office?” he asks, disgusted. “You know--'Holy crap, Putin said something ugly!' ” [New York2/27/11, via Media Matters]