Newt Gingrich has a message for the American people: If you don’t like the media, vote for Donald Trump.
Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker and potential Trump running mate, suggested to CNN Thursday that the campaign hoped to make the 2016 election a referendum on the press.
“A substantial part of the campaign is going to be ― if you think the news media is honest and fair and totally neutral, then you ought to vote for Hillary [Clinton],” Gingrich said. “But if you think the news media is biased, then join me.”
Gingrich echoed that strategy in an Thursday evening interview with The Washington Post. Trump “has concluded that you guys in the media will kill him unless he destroys your credibility,” Gingrich said. “Guaranteeing that the media is not believable is a significant building block of this campaign, as important as showing that Hillary Clinton is corrupt.”
Trump, a reality TV star who’s cultivated relationships with media executives and journalists spanning decades, benefited from excessive press coverage during the Republican primary. At the same time, Trump’s campaign has placed significant restrictions on journalists at events and denied numerous outlets press access to them. He’ll hit the morning TV shows by day, while calling out “disgusting” journalists at evening rallies ― all to the delight of his hardcore supporters.
Now Trump has found a kindred spirit in Gingrich, who similarly seems to relish being in front of the camera, while knowing how, and when, to smash the lens for maximum effect. During his 2012 run for president, Gingrich drew ravenous applause from the Republican faithful when he blasted CNN moderator John King for asking a “despicable” question about whether he once sought an open marriage. He won the South Carolina primary two days later, but eventually lost the nomination to Mitt Romney.
Gingrich recalled that broadside against King, and those against other cable news moderators that election cycle, during a March appearance on HuffPost’s “Candidate Confidential” podcast. “There’s this whole market on the right that says, ‘I am so sick of these people, and I’m so glad you stood up to them,’” Gingrich said.
He’s right, at least about the right. Mocking the “liberal media,” pompous TV anchors and The New York Times makes for easy applause among Trump fans who line up hours in advance to see him. Still, it’s hard to see how such attacks broaden Trump’s base in a general election. Sure, polls show Americans increasingly distrusting the news media, but will swipes at “Sleepy Eyes” Chuck Todd actually convince an undecided voter to pull the lever for Trump?
Bumper stickers urging voters to “Annoy the Media: Re-elect Bush” couldn’t lead President George H.W. Bush to victory over Bill Clinton in 1992. Sarah Palin regularly assailed the media through the fall of 2008, as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, but Republicans decisively lost that election.
But Gingrich indicated Thursday that the Trump campaign will try to make an anti-media campaign work in 2016 regardless. While flying back from their Cincinnati appearance the previous night, Gingrich told the Post about how the pair considered ways to target the media. The result was a bizarre tweet that helped reignite a controversy brewing since Saturday, when Trump tweeted an anti-Semitic image that had circulated among white supremacists online.
Trump now says he regrets having removed the tweet, which featured an image depicting Clinton as corrupt, complete with a Star of David and background of cash. The presumptive Republican nominee has since claimed the star could have been a “sheriff’s star,” and after Wednesday’s rally, tweeted a photo of a Disney “Frozen” book featuring a six-sided star. The “Frozen” image, too, had previously appeared in a forum that included anti-Semitic posts.
Gingrich seemed satisfied Thursday with keeping the controversy over the star alive, though his two interviews showed the limits of taking an “us or them” approach with the media. He got word out about this strategy by speaking to a TV network Trump claims to no longer watch and a newspaper that is currently barred from the candidate’s events.