A good catch by Mediaite from Cruz’s interview this morning with Chris Stigall, and de facto confirmation of what I wrote earlier about the frustration he seems to be feeling with Hannity (and Fox News writ large). To be clear, it’s Stigall who brings up O’Reilly and Hannity. Cruz doesn’t name them as hosts who are “in the tank for Trump” but he’s complained before about O’Reilly’s habit of defending Trump and his spokesman’s complained about Hannity pushing Trump’s talking points. And Cruz’s silence in not challenging Stigall about O’Reilly and Hannity is deafening. He pointedly omits them from his list of hosts who aren’t in the tank — Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, and, er, Rush, whom Cruz is careful to compliment. Did you know, Cruz boasts, that Rush has said that if you’re a conservative voter, I’m the obvious choice for president? And it’s true, Rush has said that. But in a year when grassroots conservatives finally have one of their own within striking distance of the nomination, something they’ve dreamed about and kvetched about for 25 years, it’s passing strange that the dean of conservative talk radio would feel he had to qualify his praise by touting Cruz as the best candidate “if you’re conservative.”
And Cruz knows that, of course. He just doesn’t want to give Rush any more reason to slouch towards O’Reilly/Hannity territory than he already has by picking a fight with him.
By the way, when I went looking for audio of the Stigall interview on YouTube to embed, I found a full-length version posted by Team Cruz itself. Or rather, it looked full length: For some reason, I couldn’t find the exchange on O’Reilly and Hannity. In fact, right around the 10:00 mark, it sounded like the audio mysteriously segued from Cruz talking about Pennsylvania directly into the part of the audio posted by Mediaite where Cruz starts talking about Rush. All the stuff about O’Reilly and Hanity and people being in the tank was gone. After I tweeted about that, the Cruz campaign e-mailed with a link to the now complete Stigall interview, which you’ll find below. The O’Reilly/Hannity bit comes at 10:10. (This version of the interview runs 13:10 in length. The redacted one I found earlier ran 12:00.) Anyway, listen, and then watch a bit of Cruz’s presser from this afternoon in which he jabs at Trump and “his media surrogates.” Who could he possibly mean?
Exit question: I’m a Cruz fan, but, er, is criticizing Trump for being a “niche candidate” really the best line of attack for him, of all people, to be making?
Update: Trump fans are asking on Twitter, “Aren’t Levin and Beck ‘in the tank’ for Cruz?” Yes, of course, if by “in the tank” you mean that they prefer him strongly to Trump. But why wouldn’t they prefer him? They’re both conservatives. And they’ve both made no bones about their support for Cruz, having endorsed him officially. “Conservative favors conservative” is a dog-bites-man story. “In the tank” suggests something more, a pretense of neutrality when really you’re biased towards a certain person or outcome. That’s what Stigall’s getting at in the clip when he brings this up, the idea that O’Reilly and Hannity are claiming some sort of impartiality when they don’t seem so impartial in practice. That’s especially irksome to Cruz fans in Hannity’s case because, unlike O’Reilly, he’s supposed to be a dogmatic conservative, not a populist independent. As Leon Wolf put it last week, explaining why Hannity’s being attacked for how he handles Trump:
Hannity bills himself as an unabashed conservative. No one would complain at all if he gave the exact same amount of time to interviews of Barack Obama that he did to interviews of Ted Cruz. What we would expect, however, is that if Barack Obama were foolhardy enough to go on Sean Hannity’s show on 41 separate occasions, then there would be multiple instances of the sparks flying and several instances of Obama (hopefully) being caught saying something politically damaging. The whole alleged point of Hannity’s schtick is that a guy like Ted Cruz should be treated differently from a guy like Barack Obama…
The reason Hannity is being criticized is not that he gives an inordinate amount of air time to Donald Trump… The reason Hannity is being criticized is that he is giving a ton of airtime to a not very good caricature of a conservative, and that he is doing absolutely nothing to expose a faker for what he is.
Correct. Far, far better conservatives than Trump, who’s not a conservative at all and doesn’t even pretend to care about the size of government, have been attacked by Hannity as RINOs. But Trump is popular with his audience so Trump skates. That’s what being “in the tank” means.