“Conservative Media's Grip” On The GOP Has Molded Its Frontrunners' Candidacies

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.

CNN Chronicles How Conservative Radio Created A Climate That Helped Launch Candidacies Of Cruz And Trump

CNN: Right-Wing Radio Personalities “Have Surpassed Party Officials And Even Elected Representatives In Their Influence.” In a February 3 article published on CNN.com, Brian Rosenwald and Michael Smerconish explained how conservative radio personalities have influenced Republican candidacies and pushed for policy positions sometimes “at odds with good governance” and with the party's ability to win elections. Rosenwald and Smerconish wrote that the “content on talk radio and cable television” has been “a precursor” to Trump's and Cruz's rhetoric and the proliferation of conservative outlets has bred extremism that punishes the party's attempts at moderation or compromise. The authors noted that even if electoral outcomes fail to line up with the viewpoints of the “titans of talk,” conservative radio hosts still win, since “four more years with a Democrat in the White House will be a boon to the bottom line:”

Over the course of the last three decades, these media personalities have surpassed party officials and even elected representatives in their influence, ascending to exalted status atop Republican leadership. Yet, they prioritize goals seemingly at odds with good governance, and often, even the party's sole purpose for existence.


Bold, assertive, controversial content achieves this goal far better than thorough, nuanced, paragraph-long explanations. This incentive explains why the content on talk radio and cable television news has long been a precursor to the provocative language of Trump and Cruz stump speeches.


To [Laura] Ingraham and her cohorts, compromise constitutes treason -- no matter how unfavorable the political situation, or how dire the consequences of inaction. Most of talk's titans can freely slough off potentially catastrophic consequences because they dismiss the experts issuing warnings as suffering from hopeless liberal bias. Consequently, hosts discount their warnings as fear mongering designed to produce liberal outcomes.


Conservative outlets have proliferated to such a degree that some hosts, such as Iowa's Steve Deace (who campaigned with Ted Cruz on the eve of the Iowa caucuses), and their listeners now question the conservatism of former gold standards like Fox News. These channels and hosts arouse suspicion by failing to sufficiently flay establishment conservatives or mistreating favorite firebrands.


Congressional leaders seek a team player willing to compromise as they keep their eye on protecting their majorities and enacting the most conservative policy realistically possible in a deeply divided country.

The titans of talk, by contrast, can freely support Cruz because they win regardless of the election's outcome. If the senator stuns the Washington establishment and triumphs in November, they will finally have a champion in the White House who shares their values and will heed their call for uncompromising, unabashed conservatism.


If Cruz loses, however, they also win because four more years with a Democrat in the White House will be a boon to the bottom line.


A president doing controversial things translates into vexed listeners or viewers who want to vent and seek solace in their favorite virtual community of the like-minded. For hosts, a president from the opposition party offers a target about whom to bellow and kvetch. And for this reason, the only thing better for their business than Bill Clinton ... would be Hillary! [CNN, 2/3/16]

Cruz And Trump Frequently Praise Conservative Radio Hosts

Extremist Conservative Radio Hosts Rallied For Ted Cruz In Iowa. In one of the last rallies before the Iowa caucuses, Ted Cruz campaigned with the support of radio hosts Glenn Beck, Michael Berry, and Steve Deace, who have long records of espousing extreme rhetoric that include anti-LGBT and racially offensive remarks. As reported by Media Matters:

Cruz's rally featured seven speakers including anti-gay activists like CEO of The Family Leader Bob Vander Plaats and Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson as well as Iowa's Rep. Steve King (R). However, it was the presence of radio hosts Glenn Beck, Michael Berry, and Steve Deace which best illustrated the divisive nature of Cruz's platform.

Beck, once of Fox News fame and now a television and radio host on The Blaze, previously caused controversy due to his claim that President Obama is a “racist” with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” The host has been criticized in the past for his use of Nazi imagery, his history of violent rhetoric and for making outlandish claims like blaming President Obama for the November terrorist attack in Paris. Beck announced his endorsement of Cruz in January, making Cruz the first candidate he has officially endorsed in his broadcast career.

Iowa based radio host Steve Deace began supporting Cruz early in this election cycle and endorsed Cruz in August, saying he has a “commitment to our principals.” Since his endorsement Deace has written at least 24 articles trumpeting Cruz, advised the candidate before debates, and appeared in a lengthy campaign ad for Cruz.

Deace's brand of extremism centers around a plethora of anti-gay ideas. Deace coined the phrase “rainbow jihad” to describe advocates for LGBT rights -- a phrase which Cruz paraphrased claiming “the jihad ... going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” Deace's extreme views have led him to write about a hypothetical conversation with Jesus in which he claims to show Obama is not a Christian and an article which suggested divorce could make children gay. Deace has recently pushed the conspiracy theory that Obama may not leave the White House when his term is up in January 2017.

Rounding out Cruz's radio host speakers was Michael Berry, a supporter of Cruz's senate bid and “friend for over ten years.” Much of Berry's show revolves around stoking the flames of racial tension. The host often undermines the intentions behind the Black Lives Matter movement, claiming “black lives matter, just not to black people” and that white people don't kill people the way black people do. Comedian Chuck Knipp, a frequent guest of Berry's, performs in blackface as “Shirley Q. Liquor” to mock racial stereotypes of black people. [Media Matters, 2/1/16]

Cruz Thanked The Right-Wing Radio Hosts Who Endorsed Him In His Victory Speech. After winning the Iowa caucuses the night of February 1, Cruz thanked and praised the extremist radio hosts who supported him, calling Steve Deace a “friend” and Glenn Beck a “national leader” (emphasis added):

TED CRUZ (R-TX): And let me say our leadership team, our Iowa state chairman, Matt Shultz, what an extraordinary job you have done organizing a grass-roots army, and let me say to our Iowa state director, Brian English, what an amazing job Brian has done. And to our national co-chairmen, Bob Vander Plaats and Steve King, these men have become dear and trusted friends. They are warriors. They are men of principle. They stand and speak the truth. They stand to defend their values and let me tell you, these leaders, day after day, week after week, have been crawling under broken glass with knives between their teeth. I'm grateful for the support, the early support of my friend Steve Deace. We're grateful for the over 150 pastors across the state of Iowa, who joined our team to energize people of faith. We are grateful to the state senators, to the state representatives, to the volunteer leaders in each of the 99 counties who stood up and said we will be heard and this will be decided by the grass roots. And then, I am so grateful to national leaders, people like Dr. James Dobson, and Tony Perkins, and Phil Robertson, and Governor Rick Perry, and Glenn Beck. Leaders who have stood and led, bringing together and coalescing conservatives here in Iowa and all across the country. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 2/1/16]

Cruz Praised Talk Radio For Taking His Message “Directly To The People.” During an appearance on Fox News' MediaBuzz, Cruz told host Howard Kurtz that “the great news is ...we've got the ability to go directly around [mainstream media] and directly to the people” because “we've got the Internet, we've got the Drudge Report, we've got talk radio, we've got social media.” [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 1/24/16]

Trump Told Far-Right Radio Host Michael Savage The US Would Have “Common Sense” If He Headed NIH. On the October 6, 2015 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Savage Nation, Trump told host Michael Savage that “common sense” would reign if Trump appointed him head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as president. Savage has called autism “a fraud, a racket,” said PTSD and depression sufferers are “losers,” advised people not to get flu shots because they can't trust the government, theorized that liberals have been driven insane because of seltzer bubbles, claimed President Obama was intentionally trying “to infect the nation with Ebola,” and told a caller he was a “sodomite” who should “get AIDS and die.” [Media Matters, 10/9/15]

Trump Thanked Savage For His Support After The Radio Host Disparaged Hispanics. During the January 11 edition of The Savage Nation, Trump told Savage “I appreciate your support -- you've been so amazing.” Trump's praise came right after Savage disparaged Hispanics, saying, “the Hispanic culture is a macho culture. Men don't like reporting to a woman. It's just the way the culture is. And they'd rather have a man than a woman as president.” [Media Matters, 1/13/15]

And Parrot Conservative Radio's Talking Points

Ted Cruz Recycled Mark Levin's Attack On Marco Rubio. On the December 9, 2015, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Cruz parroted radio host Mark Levin, saying, “Mark Levin wrote a fantastic column in Conservative Review” in which he argued “that Rubio is engaging in Alinskyite tactics of simply lying.” The attack was a reference to the late community organizer Saul Alinsky. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 12/9/15]

Cruz's Anti-LGBT Rhetoric Mirrors Deace's Language. During an April 9, 2015, panel, Cruz accused the LGBT community of waging “jihad” on religious freedom, parroting Deace's anti-LGBT language. Deace has on other occasions used the phrase “rainbow jihad” to refer to “advocates for LGBT equality.” As reported by Media Matters:

On LGBT issues, the two also have parallel views and use strikingly similar language. Deace has lashed out at advancements in LGBT rights such as the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision to allow marriage equality in every state as well as positive media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner's transition and accompanying trans issues. Deace also coined the phrase “rainbow jihad” to describe advocates for LGBT equality.


As Right Wing Watch first reported, Cruz used similar language during a panel discussion on religious freedom. “Look at the jihad being waged right now ... going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” The discussion, which also featured former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), was hosted by Steve Deace. [Media Matters, 1/3/16]

Trump's Proposal To Ban Muslims Echoed Laura Ingraham's Suggestion That Muslim Refugees “Stay In The Middle East.” On December 7, 2015, Trump called for a moratorium on Muslims entering the United States echoing Ingraham's suggestion a few weeks before that Muslim refugees should “stay in the Middle East.” [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show11/16/15]

Trump Parroted Rush Limbaugh's Argument That Shooters Target “Gun-Free Zones” Because “There's Not Going To Be Any Resistance.” Trump called for an end to “gun-free zones” during a January 7 campaign rally in Vermont, parroting a right-wing media claim hyped by Rush Limbaugh. During the October 5, 2015, edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh repeated the lie that “92 percent of mass shootings since 2009 have occurred in gun-free zones,” claiming that “there's a collection of kids that make good targets” because shooters believe “there's not going to be any resistance” in schools.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: The law exists because society as a whole has deemed this or that to be right or wrong, moral or immoral, good or bad, harmful or not. It's how we lay down our markers. And they just want to keep piling law on law on law.


But clearly, folks, it just has no impact. Here's another stat. And this is from the same writer, A.W.R. Hawkins: 92 percent of mass shootings since 2009 have occurred in gun-free zones. Ninety-two percent. These schools are not being chosen randomly. They're not chosen just because there's a collection of kids that make good targets or students there. They're chosen because there's not going to be any resistance. And what is it that shuts down every one of these sprees when they start? It's the arrival on the scene, of somebody else with a gun. Not somebody waving a law and a piece of paper, not somebody on a megaphone, “You are breaking gun law, you are violating gun law; we command you to stop.” What you hear next is bang bang, couple more times. There aren't any shooters on site because it's a gun-free zone. The law-abiding, of course, obey the law and they don't have any guns, not even the security people. Ninety-two percent of mass shootings since 2009 occurred in gun-free zones. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/5/15]