Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Newt Gingrich has his limits

Newt Gingrich has been in politics a long time, so he's used to the rough-and-tumble of it. Certainly, he can stand his own when it comes to the media.

Unless, of course, he's being interviewed by a college kid from a student newspaper:
At a Tea Party rally in Greensboro Saturday, I had scheduled a private interview with the presidential candidate through his staff.

His aide gave no preconditions; no topics were off limits.

That’s why I was so surprised when, before I had finished asking my first question, that same aide cut the interview short and prompted Secret Service to grab and briefly detain me as the former speaker was led away.

The unexpected reaction came in response to a question about Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. Last week, in a speech he gave at the University, Ailes had some harsh words for Gingrich, claiming the candidate was “trying to get a job at CNN, because he knows he isn’t going to get to come back to Fox.”

Gingrich was a former paid Fox News contributor. At a campaign stop in Delaware last week, he told supporters that Ailes’ network was biased against his campaign.

“We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of Fox, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of Fox,” he told supporters.

But before I even had a chance on Saturday to relay Ailes’ comments, his aide pressed his hands against me, and several Secret Service agents stopped me in my tracks.

“You’re not asking that. You’re done,” his aide said.

Not “Next question.” Just, “You’re done.”

I was surprised that they weren’t ready for the question. I was surprised that they were so surprised I might ask it.

To be honest, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the speaker in a tough back-and-forth. After all, in the struggle between politicians and members of the media, he’s a pro; I’m an amateur.

At my other job at a grocery store, my hardest-hitting question is usually, “Paper or plastic?”

Funny, huh? But Fox 'News' is a touchy subject among Republicans.

Fox pretends - not very well - to be a news network. In reality, they're just the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

Note Roger Ailes' comment that Gingrich "knows he isn't going to come back to Fox." Why not? Well, because Fox is backing Mitt Romney, and Gingrich isn't playing ball.

Now think about that. If Fox were a news network, how would that sound? No one at CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC would ever say something like that about a political candidate. But the agenda at Fox is to elect Republicans, and the boss decides which Republicans.

In fact, the relationship has become rather one-sided. As conservative David Frum once said, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we're discovering that we work for Fox."

That's literally true in many cases. When Republican politicians aren't running for office, or in office, they tend to get paid by Fox News. Newt Gingrich is far from the only candidate who worked for Fox and, no doubt, expected to return if he didn't get elected.

Fox News is not just the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, but also the support system for Republican politicians. But this has given Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes so much power that the Republican Party does pretty much work for them, rather than the other way around.

Few Republicans dare cross Fox News. Newt Gingrich is only doing so because he has little to lose, at this point. And his ego is pretty big, too. (Yeah, that's an understatement, huh?)

But this line of questioning still scares him, even when it comes from a college student.


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