Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) played press critic Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” arguing that the media “helped create” the Donald Trump phenomenon by essentially giving the Republican front-runner hundreds of millions of dollars in free airtime. He has a point.
But Cruz moved to shakier ground when next claiming reporters are actually withholding potentially damaging stories about Trump until after the Republican primary, presumably to help the Democratic nominee in the general election.
“I think an awful lot of reporters -- I can't tell you how many media outlets I hear have this great exposé on Donald, on different aspects of his business dealings, or his past, but they said, you know what, we're going to hold it to June or July,” Cruz said. “We're not going to run it now.”
Cruz's claim should play well with conservatives who believe "liberal" journalists care more about electing Democrats than breaking news. But it's hard to believe reporters would sit on big stories, and risk getting scooped in the heat of a highly competitive election season.
A Cruz spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Cruz’s assertion Sunday comes amid recent chatter that a major revelation could help dislodge the Republican front-runner. On Feb. 24, Mitt Romney said there may be a “bombshell” in Trump’s tax returns. Five days later, BuzzFeed reported that Trump may have told the New York Times editorial board off-the-record that his position on immigration was more flexible than he'd said publicly.
“Face the Nation” host John Dickerson appeared skeptical of Cruz's claim that reporters are holding back stories.
“You're saying reporters have told you that?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” Cruz responded, while declining to name said media outlets.
“I can tell you there is so much there,” he added.
It's true there is much out there. The Huffington Post noted last week that the national media has only scratched the surface on Trump’s spotty business record and murky connections after nine months of excessive coverage.
But lack of scrutiny doesn't equal media conspiracy.
The media, broadly speaking, didn’t take Trump seriously enough early on to fully vet his record. And the self-described "ratings machine" has been adept at getting the media to chase his running stream of insults and wild claims.
Another factor has been that Republican rivals failed to frame Trump's business record as one built on fraud and debt, which anti-Trump forces are now trying to do.
During the CBS interview, Cruz asked when was the last time Trump’s tax returns have come up.
Journalists have inquired about Trump’s tax returns since he jumped in the race in mid-June, though Trump has consistently punted on the issue.
Initially, news outlets reported that he planned to disclose them within a couple of months of announcing his candidacy. On Aug. 2, Trump told Dickerson he had “no major problem” making the returns public, while also tying the disclosure to the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails from a private account she used while secretary of state, which has been ongoing. In late September, Trump said he’d release his returns in the “not too distant future.” He was still “thinking about it” in October and “working” on the matter in January. Last month, he pledged to release them “at some point” in the future.
The media could've pressed Trump harder on his missing tax returns in the past nine months, but Dickerson also pointed out to Cruz that he could've made the lack of disclosure a bigger issue.
“I could have, and I do often,” Cruz said. “But as Mitt Romney rightly observed, the fact that Donald won't hand over his tax returns suggests there's a bombshell in there. The fact that journalists are not raising the question of what Donald Trump told The New York Times editorial board, the reports are …”
“But the journalists brought it up, which gave you the platform to talk about it,” Dickerson said. “So, surely they are. BuzzFeed wrote about it, so they are talking about it.”
“I promise you, come the general election, that will be the singular focus of the media,” Cruz said. “And I think Republicans, we have been burned by that before.”
Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist,