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American Journalism Review
The Media Did It  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   March & april 2011

The Media Did It   

Newt Gingrich’s lame attempt to blame the press for reporting what he said. Posted: Wed. May 18, 2011

By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder ( is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      

It's the lamest response in the book.

When things go wrong, blame the news media.

Not that news media don't have plenty to answer for. But when they are being blamed for essentially reporting what a blunder-prone candidate said, it's a clear sign that the silly season is here in earnest.

That's the strategy of the camp of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who wants to be the Republican nominee for president.

Gingrich, whose campaign slogan should probably be "Out of the Past," has a long reputation for lacking, as they say, discipline. Gingrich thinks a lot, and talks a lot. In a world where staying on message is considered sacrosanct, that's a problem.

And it's a monumental problem at a time when the pressures are overwhelming for GOP candidates to march in lockstep to the Tea Party orthodoxy.

Gingrich got into trouble Sunday on "Meet the Press" when he was asked by host David Gregory about current GOP darling Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to revamp Medicare. "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," the Georgia Republican replied. He called the plan "too big a jump." The Democrats couldn't have gotten a better sound bite if they had commissioned one.

Gingrich also expressed support for the idea of an individual healthcare mandate, anathema to the GOP.

The reaction was a furious torrent of criticism from fellow Republicans. The Wall Street Journal pilloried him. Ginrgich's candidacy was declared DOA by conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. The once mighty House speaker was forced to apologize to Ryan.

And whose fault was all that? The gaffe machine that is Gingrich? Nope. The dreaded elite media.

Asked about the imbroglio by The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone, Gingrich press secretary Rick Tyler fired off an extraordinary response replete with rococo rhetoric and ample amounts of self-pity.

"The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding," Tyler wrote. "Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment's cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles."

As for Ginrgich himself, he said the villain was the "gotcha" press. He said he had been set up, that he just didn't know what to expect, even though he has been on "Meet the Press" more than 30 times.

Just a hunch, Mr. Speaker, but I don't think anyone is buying this.

The whole episode reminded me of the time Charles Barkley claimed he was misquoted in his own autobiography. It didn't work then, and it isn't going to work now.



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