Question: If the snap polls, along with the pundit consensus, had indicated Mitt Romney had won Tuesday's debate, would anyone on Fox News have cared what moderator Candy Crowley said while the two candidates discussed last month's terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya?
The hysterical, and at times deeply disturbing, reaction to Crowley's moderator role only erupted as way to explain away Romney's poor showing. Angry that Romney's weak performance might hurt his November chances, conservatives lashed out at the nearest target, Crowley. ("Shut your big fat mouth, Candy.")
But conservatives didn't simply condemn Crowley's performance as a journalist. ("Disgraceful"!) They spent the week turning her into a mythical figure of liberal destruction; a potentially violent agent (a "suicide bomber") sent by Obama to dismantle the Republican campaign for the presidency. In doing so, unglued commentators attached Crowley to a sweeping campaign conspiracy.
Is criticizing a debate moderator out of bounds? Of course not. Media Matters found fault with Jim Lehrer's performance at the first presidential debate this year. Is it completely insane to denounce a moderator by likening him or her to a political killer?
From Rush Limbaugh [emphasis added]:
"She committed an act of journalistic terror or malpractice last night. If there were any journalist standards, what she did last night would have been the equivalent of blowing up her career like a suicide bomber.
She committed an act of journalistic terror or malpractice last night.
Obviously no rational person would draw a connection between an allegedly overzealous journalist and the carnage wrought by traitorous assassins, violent terrorists, or communist armies. But for right-wing zealots, Crowley wasn't simply a journalist asking questions. She's a solider in Obama's army. She's a soldier who's trying to re-elect an illegitimate president.
In the eyes of Crowley's critics, the Obama who was elected president is not real Obama. He's an ineligible, secretly foreign, un-American terrorist sympathizer.
Four years after Obama's electoral landslide, Fox's Sean Hannity still cannot understand how the Democrat was elected. That blanket of denial permeates the conservative press. It then feeds these bizarre eruptions of anger directed at anyone whom they perceive to be helping the illegitimate president succeed in November.
So in the confused eyes of right-wing commentators, Crowley wasn't simply being sloppy or unprofessional at the debate, she was guilty of trying to help steal the election for Obama, just like ACORN in 2008 was accused of illegally pushing Obama across the finish line. And just like pollsters (until very recently) were accused by conservatives of being part of a massive, White House-run conspiracy to suppress the Republican vote, journalists like Crowley are now portrayed as being knowing agents working with the Obama "regime."
From their deep, dungeon-like perspective, if Crowley was trying to deny Mitt Romney his rightful position as President of the United States, and if she was trying to subvert democracy at the debate, then she deserved to be condemned in the strongest possible manner. Of course she was going to be compared to an assassin, a terrorist and a communist guerilla fighter.
That kind of disturbing, anti-media rhetoric almost makes you nostalgic for when conservatives merely accused the press of having a liberal bias.