Right-Wing Media Civil War Continues As MSNBC Pundits Target Fox, Limbaugh

Limbaugh/FoxTwo conservative hosts for MSNBC are criticizing Fox News and Rush Limbaugh in the latest salvo in the right-wing media's civil war.

Since the presidential election, what had been a low-grade conflict between members of the right-wing media has dramatically increased in intensity. Some in the conservative media have criticized their colleagues for failing to provide credible reporting and reasonable predictions during the campaign. The movement has also split over Fox News analyst Karl Rove's plan to support “seasoned candidates” in Republican primaries against grassroots opponents.

In February 19 columns for New York Daily News and Politico, MSNBC's S.E. Cupp and Joe Scarborough had harsh words for major pieces of the right-wing noise machine.

Cupp was responding to a virulent conservative reaction to her past criticism of Limbaugh. On February 14, The New York Times Magazine reported Cupp's statements on what the Republican Party needs to do to win:

“And we can't be afraid to call out Rush Limbaugh,” said Goodwin's fiancée, S. E. Cupp, a New York Daily News columnist and a co-host of “The Cycle” on MSNBC. “If we can get three Republicans on three different networks saying, 'What Rush Limbaugh said is crazy and stupid and dangerous,' maybe that'll give other Republicans cover” to denounce the talk-show host as well.

Cupp wrote in her Daily News column: “Rush's fans, who call themselves 'Ditto-heads,' did not appreciate this. ... Some demanded I apologize. Others implied I just committed career suicide. Others still politely suggested I commit actual suicide.”

The MSNBC host refused to apologize and went on to slam Limbaugh for his infamous comments labeling Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” for speaking in favor of federal funding for contraception, writing:

It was crazy because it invented an irrational connection between her private sex life and her political position. It was stupid because calling someone a name is intellectually lazy. Make an actual argument. And it was dangerous because it trafficked in the same kind of misogyny that liberals use when they blast conservative women for being sluts, prudes or sexually repressed. And that fell right into the well-crafted but dishonest “war on women” narrative that liberals had set up to (successfully) get President Obama re-elected.

Rush is free to say whatever he wants, but how was that productive? And why did anyone defend it?

She went on to point out that her experience is indicative of a conservative movement that refuses to accept criticism:

The other point that the reaction to my Rush comments proves is that conservatives continue to view criticism (even the constructive kind) through a lens of ideological suspicion. Even though I defended conservative principles as right, strong and popular, and explicitly said this isn't about casting strident conservatives out of the party but reworking our messaging, Rush's fans still decided that my conservatism was discredited. Disagreeing with him, or merely offering that we should feel comfortable disagreeing with party leaders now and then, suddenly made me an untrustworthy, sell-out liberal.

Notably, Cupp is a contributor for TheBlaze TV, which is headed by Glenn Beck, the right-wing radio and former Fox News host with a long and fraught relationship with others in the right-wing media.

Meanwhile, Scarborough used his Politico platform to criticize the “Conservative Entertainment Complex” for convincing right-wing media figures that Mitt Romney was on the verge of winning the 2012 election, saying that conservatives “had finally become what they had once mocked: an insular movement so lost in its own echo chamber that it rarely made contact with those who didn't share their world view.”

Scarborough blamed the GOP's support for the “conservative alternative media machine” of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for stifling debate within the party and leading to its poor results over the past few decades:

Why is Rush Limbaugh batting one for six in presidential races? Why is Fox News one for five? Perhaps it is because two decades later, what many of us once considered to be an important balance to left-wing media bias have become the only outlets conservative politicians and thought leaders consider legitimate. That has proven to be a terrible calculation.

This assumption has now become so widespread on the right that any news analysis or media poll that runs counter to Republican interests is dismissed by the right as biased and irrelevant. This mindset took firm hold in 2012 so that the echo chamber syndrome that once made fools of left has now come back to undermine the right. Not only does this approach distort political reality by only reinforcing pre-existing worldviews, it also stifles intellectual debate inside the party.