It's been three years since Tucker Carlson called for a conservative New York Times, but the Republican primary has proven that the conservative New York Times is still The New York Times. Newt Gingrich has referenced The New York Times or other newspapers 16 times in debates in the last two months. Mitt Romney has both bashed and defended the press. Journalists' words and faces are being used in an unprecedented number of campaign ads, Politico's Keach Hagey reports, in part because using reporters makes the candidates' attacks seem more credible -- even to conservative, "liberal media"-hating audiences. This love-hate dynamic makes Republicans and reporters seem like a couple stuck in a long-term relationship that alternate between fighting and making out in public.
Gingrich can't stop referencing the media even as he attacks it. Romney, too, has been on both sides of the issue. At a January 7 debate, for example, Gingrich was trying to portray Romney as a robber baron when he was at Bain Capital, citing The Times. "That was, I think, The New York Times story two days ago. They took one specific company. They walked through in detail. They showed what they bought it for, how much they took out of it and the 1,700 people they left unemployed." Romney responded, "I'm not surprised to have The New York Times try and put free enterprise on trial." But a couple weeks later, after Gingrich got such rave reviews by bashing the media in debates, Romney said attacking reporters was a cheap shot:
“It’s very easy to talk down a moderator... The moderator asks a question and then has to sit by and take whatever you send to them. And Speaker Gingrich has been wonderful at attacking the moderators and attacking the media. That’s always a favorite response for the home crowd.”
"The home crowd Romney references would be you, apparently aka the rubes that enjoy that sort of thing," Big Journalism complained. "It would appear as though Mitt relates more to the authority figures the media moderators represent... Mitt’s political instincts are terrible. Why else would he allow himself to be portrayed as defending the media, while talking down to the Republican base?"
Meanwhile, Republican ads have featured reporters from MSNBC, NBC News, Salon, ABC News, The Boston Globe, Forbes, The Washington Post, and CNN. Many reporters are mad that their work and identities are being being used in attack ads, Hagey reports, though they can't agree on why, citing injury to reputation, copyright infringement, and misrepresenting their words. Tom Brokaw said he was "uncomfortable" that 25 seconds of his report about Gingrich's ethics problems in the 1990s. BuffFeed's Andrew Kaczynski, on the other hand, told Politico he found it "mildly annoying" when his news organization's logo was blacked out in a Gingrich ad using old footage Kaczynski had uncovered.