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Friday, September 2, 2011

Dumb Texans, boring businessmen, crazy Christians: Lazy media stereotypes of the 2012 GOP field

S.E. Cupp
by S.E. Cupp

According to some historians, conservative statesman Edmund Burke was the first to coin the term "fourth estate" when referring to the media, in 1787 during a parliamentary debate. Upon the opening up of the House of Commons of Great Britain to the press gallery, he said: "Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all."

And the infamous media ego was born. Apparently, the generous compliment went straight to their heads.

Just a century later, the press had become so corrupt, so powerful in parliamentary Britain that Oscar Wilde revisited Burke's famous quote to lament: "Somebody - was it Burke? - called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three."

Little has changed. Not only have the media become inordinately powerful - especially in presidential politics - but also depressingly lazy. In the year leading up to the 2012 presidential election, the largely liberal media are crafting narratives around the GOP candidates that are hackneyed, predictable and based almost entirely on uninventive stereotypes.

In fact, regardless of whom the candidates were, we could have written the story lines about them long before they got in the race.

I could have told you, for instance, that the narrative surrounding the Texas Republican was going to be, "Is he dumb?" And sure enough, on Politico's front page Monday, the headline read, "Is Rick Perry Dumb?" It is only one of many.

I also could have told you that the narrative surrounding the female candidate was going to be, "Is she weak?" And sure enough, for at least a couple of weeks, the press worried if occasional migraines would make Michele Bachmann a weak-kneed President. MSNBC.com did a hard-hitting investigation inviting a number of doctors to speculate about her headaches. "Expert says they could be 'huge problem,' " the piece warned. Anyone have smelling salts?

Mitt Romney has suffered three lazy story lines: "Is the businessman boring?" "Does the millionaire have too much money?" "Are Mormons weird?" To the Mormon issue, in a June broadcast of "Meet the Press," David Gregory asked Rick Santorum, whom he called the "Christian conservative" candidate, what he thought of Romney's Mormonism. Now how is that relevant?

For Tim Pawlenty, the best the liberal media could do was to wonder if the former Minnesota governor was too "Minnesota nice."

Of course, for the moderate, Jon Huntsman, the near-constant declaration from the press is, "Isn't the moderate awesome?" Just ask John McCain, another moderate, former Republican presidential candidate, if being the darling of the liberal press is a good thing.

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