CNN Debate Exposes GOP Hypocrisy As Ted Cruz Refuses To Promise Woman Who Likes Her ACA Plan She Can Keep It
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Moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash should utilize the February 7 CNN debate between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) on “the future of Obamacare” to ask targeted questions about the GOP’s plans to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how that will affect the American health care system. As CNN’s town hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) demonstrated, these forums can serve as opportunities to fact-check misinformation, but they can also fail to substantively engage on specific policy issues. Moderators should be prepared to pose specific questions to Cruz, the representative for “the viewpoint of President Trump and the Republican party,” on distinct policies proposed by the GOP to repeal and replace the ACA.
While there is no shortage of important questions about the negative impacts of repealing the ACA on Medicare, job growth, LGBTQ equality, the budget deficit, and mental health care services, moderators must prioritize the subjects they can address in the time allotted. Here are five of the most important questions that CNN should ask Cruz in tonight’s debate.
Implementation of the ACA has resulted in a record low number of uninsured Americans -- merely 8.6 percent in June 2016, down from over 16 percent in 2010. Numerous reports have noted that Republican politicians continue to obfuscate about whether their replacement for the ACA would cover as many people as Obamacare does, likely because none of their proposed policies would. Vox’s Sarah Kliff analyzed the existing replacement plans and found that all of them would reduce coverage, with the number of people impacted ranging by between 3 million and 21 million people.
Given that Cruz himself dodged this question during a 2016 Republican presidential primary debate, this new venue provides a unique opportunity to press the senator on whether the Republican replacement will maintain existing coverage levels.
Congressional Republicans, including President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price (R-GA), have publicly opposed some ACA provisions regarding women’s health care. As CBS News noted, the debate over the ACA resurrects the risk of “a return to higher premiums for women” and “gaps in coverage for birth control and breast pumps.” The ACA also banned discriminatory practices, like sex discrimination and gender rating, while significantly reducing out-of-pocket costs for women’s birth control.
Tapper and Bash should ask about the future of women’s health care, making sure to reference the specific gains made by the ACA to prevent generic answers that dodge the question.
One of the leading GOP proposals for reforming the health care system revolves around changing Medicaid’s funding structure to a block grant system, which caps the amount of funding a state receives from the federal government. While conservatives typically discuss block grant proposals in terms of allowing states to “innovate,” in reality, most block grant proposals shift Medicaid costs to the states, which would cause chaos on state budgets and force draconian cuts in services covered by Medicaid.
Under the ACA, the Medicaid expansion extended health insurance to millions of low-income Americans, making a discussion of proposed changes a necessity during the debate.
Numerous conservatives, including Trump, have pledged to keep certain parts of the ACA, like the ban on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and the provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26. But they simultaneously promise to get rid of other provisions, like the individual mandate and the varied taxes, which provide the revenue to fund the popular parts of the law.
As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote, it’s “impossible” to keep certain popular provisions “while eliminating unpopular parts,” because the “good and the bad depend on each other.” This tension is a central fault line in discussions about the ACA and should be a central theme in CNN’s town hall.
One of the few specific health care policies Republicans have championed in pushing to repeal and replace the ACA involves the resurrection of high-risk pools. Despite conservative attempts to repackage high-risk pools as a new idea, they have a long history of problems, as they typically are chronically underfunded, are prohibitively expensive for customers, and provide inadequate coverage. As the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik noted, 35 states used high-risk pools prior to the implementation of the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and the experience was “almost universally grim.”
Moderators should ask about high-risk pools, because they would degrade access to health care to those who are most vulnerable and need care the most.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) implored the media to run segments on attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) participation in the prosecution of an Alabama Klansman who lynched an African-American youth. But in his retelling of the 1981 prosecution, Cruz omitted key information, specifically that Sessions’ subordinate in the U.S. attorney’s office later testified that Sessions tried to dissuade him from pursuing prosecution in the case.
On March 21, 1981, Michael Donald, an African-American teenager, was lynched in Mobile, AL, by Henry Hays and another conspirator. Hays was acting on the orders of his father, who was second in command of Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan organization, to randomly kill an African-American in retaliation for the murder of a white police officer.
Local law enforcement severely botched the murder investigation. As reported by The Atlantic, one law enforcement officer told reporters that the murder was a case where “three junkies had killed this lowlife black man who thought he could take drugs from them and not pay.” Other members of law enforcement attempted to smear Donald with allegations of other criminal conduct.
At the time of the murder, Sessions was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Following the failure of local law enforcement to properly investigate the case, an assistant U.S. attorney in Sessions’ office, Thomas Figures, became the “driving force” in securing the involvement of attorneys in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. During the subsequent prosecution, Sessions took on a “supervisory role,” working in concert with Figures, attorneys from the Civil Rights Division, and state prosecutors. Hays was convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and later executed.
Sessions lists his participation in the case as one of his biggest career accomplishments, and conservative media have repeatedly cited the case to defend Sessions against longstanding allegations of racism. (In 1986, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions’ nomination to the federal bench amid testimony that he directed racially derogatory language toward Figures, who was black, and allegations that Sessions used his position as a prosecutor to unfairly target minorities.)
During the first day of Sessions’ confirmation hearings on January 10, Cruz cited the case and the statements of other attorneys who worked on the case who said that Sessions was cooperative and helpful during the prosecution. Cruz then issued a "challenge," saying, “I would encourage the news media: Cover this story. Tell the story on the six o’clock news about Jeff Sessions helping prosecute a Klansman who had murdered an innocent African-American man, and putting him on death row, and bankrupting -- helping bankrupt the Klan in Alabama. That’s a story that needs to be told.”
In his remarks, Cruz failed to mention Figures’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during Sessions’ failed 1986 nomination. Figures testified that Sessions sought to prevent him from forming a prosecutable case, telling him at the time “that the case was a waste of time, that it wasn’t going anywhere, that I should spend more time on other things, and that, if the perpetrators were found, I would not be assigned to the case.” As Figures recounted, Sessions came on board only when it “became increasingly apparent that we were going to break the case.” During the 1986 hearing, Sessions denied Figures’ allegations. From The Atlantic:
In 1986, Figures testified before the Senate that while it was “literally true” that Sessions had not “obstructed the investigation of the murder of Michael Donald,” Sessions had “tried to persuade me to discontinue pursuit of the case.” Figures said that Sessions “remarked, with regard to the investigation, that the case was a waste of time, that it wasn’t going anywhere, that I should spend more time on other things, and that, if the perpetrators were found, I would not be assigned to the case.” Figures told the Senate that after the case went to the grand jury, and it “became increasingly apparent that we were going to break the case, Mr. Sessions attitude changed” and that he supported the prosecution.
Sessions’s statements to the Senate in 1986 about his supervisory role in the case are more modest than what he and his supporters say today, and while his testimony at the time generally did not directly contradict Figures’s account, Sessions insisted that he did not urge Figures to drop the case.
Significantly, Cruz’s secondary claim about Sessions helping to bankrupt the Klan greatly overstates Sessions’ involvement. It was actually Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center who conceptualized and executed the novel civil lawsuit that led to that outcome, using the facts of the Hays murder case to establish that the Klan had organizational liability for Donald’s murder. A 1987 New York Times article on the verdict makes no mention of Sessions, instead focusing on the members of Donald’s family, attorneys, and activists who played the primary role in securing the outcome.
In the 2016 election cycle, right-wing media have spread misinformation about the Democratic position on abortion access by alleging that the party supports so-called “partial-birth” abortions, often invoking the term as a description of an abortion that takes place in the final months or “moments” of pregnancy. In reality, “partial-birth” abortion is a term coined by anti-choice groups to vilify and stigmatize individuals who elect to have an abortion. Here is what the media should know about this common anti-choice myth and why media figures should not deploy it.
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Trump Will Be The First Republican Presidential Nominee To Headline Values Voter Summit, Organized By Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins
Over the past year, Tony Perkins -- president of the anti-LGBT hate group the Family Research Council -- has gone from adamantly supporting Ted Cruz to openly endorsing Republican nominee Donald Trump for president. This week, Trump will be the first GOP presidential nominee to headline Perkins’ Values Voter Summit. Here’s how the hate group leader came to embrace and endorse Trump as a “teachable” candidate, giving Perkins an opportunity to “shape” Trump into a nominee who embodies Perkins’ anti-LGBT extremism.
On September 9, Trump is slated to speak at the 11th Values Voter Summit (VVS) in Washington, D.C. Trump’s appearance marks the first time that a Republican presidential nominee has addressed the summit since it began in 2006. The VVS is hosted annually by the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBT “hate group” due to its known propagation of extreme falsehoods about LGBT people as well as Perkins' own history of making inflammatory comments. Perkins has called pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay rights advocates to terrorists.
In past years, the summit has been little more than a who’s who of anti-LGBT and anti-choice extremists, regularly featuring hateful and extreme rhetoric from politicians and conservative media figures. Trump agreed to address attendees at the extremist event nearly a year after he initially declined the opportunity to speak at the 2015 VVS. He eventually reversed that decision and addressed the 2015 summit along with seven other Republican presidential candidates. Since then, FRC president and VVS host Tony Perkins has gone from being the driving force behind evangelical support for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid to questioning Trump’s candidacy as a possible “huge problem” for Republicans to endorsing Trump in a speech at the Republican National Convention in June.
Over the last year, Perkins seems to have become convinced that Trump was “open” and “teachable” enough to make his candidacy a “pragmatic” opportunity for Perkins to “shape the outcome” of the election. And by all accounts, he has been successful. In his speech endorsing Trump at the Republican National Convention, Perkins highlighted the extremist, anti-LGBT positions cemented into Trump’s campaign: the slew of anti-LGBT potential Supreme Court nominees Trump has mentioned, VP pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and the most anti-LGBT Republican Party platform to date.
Here’s the timeline of how the far right’s most prominent anti-LGBT extremist came to support Donald Trump.
In September 2015, Trump and Perkins appeared to have a spat when Trump initially declined to speak at FRC’s 2015 Values Voter Summit. Trump reversed his decision two days before the summit and delivered a speech met with boos from the evangelical audience, finishing in fifth place in VVS’s straw poll. In December, Perkins organized a secret meeting of influential evangelical leaders, where he successfully pushed for the group to endorse Ted Cruz for president. Later that month Perkins told The Washington Post that “it’s a mistake to write off Donald Trump.”
September 10, 2015. The Christian Post reported that Trump had declined to speak at FRC’s September 25-27 Values Voter Summit. Perkins said of Trump’s decision:
I think [Trump] is going to have to have conversations with evangelicals and talk about issues they care about. He hasn't really done that in a way that is convincing.
Could [Trump] make some progress with evangelicals? I think he could if he tried, but I don't really see that happening right now."
September 23, 2015. The Family Research Council issued a press release announcing that Trump had reversed his original decision to skip the 2015 VVS, and would now speak at the summit along with seven other Republican presidential candidates.
September 25-27, 2015. On September 25, Trump delivered a speech to the 2015 VVS, where he was greeted by boos for attacking Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and mocked by some conferencegoers for bringing his Bible as what appeared to be a prop to appeal to evangelicals. The following day, Cruz won the VVS straw poll for the third year in a row and Trump finished in a distant fifth place with 5 percent of the vote.
December 7, 2015. In a "major boost" for Cruz's presidential campaign, he won the endorsement of a secretive group of influential evangelical Christian leaders. The top national socially conservative activists convened at a private meeting organized by Perkins, who reportedly “push[ed] hard to form a supermajority” behind Cruz.
December 10, 2015. In an interview with The Washington Post, Perkins warned that “it’s a mistake to write off Donald Trump” and said that he gives Trump “more credit” than others do:
I give Donald Trump a lot more credit than some do. I don’t think he misspeaks as much as people think. I think in this age of political correctness, in which people refuse to speak with clarity, he is seen as very attractive. I think it’s a mistake to write off Donald Trump. He has tapped something that’s very real across the spectrum, including [among] Evangelicals.
December 21, 2015. Trump called in to Perkins’ radio show to discuss the importance of “religious freedom” and “saying ‘Merry Christmas.’” Perkins observed that Trump has “tapped into” the importance of celebrating Christmas, which is possibly why his poll numbers “continue to rise.”
On January 26, a week after Trump blamed Perkins for his “two Corinthians” gaffe, Perkins publicly endorsed Cruz on Fox News. After endorsing Cruz, Perkins gave several interviews disparaging Trump. In February, he denounced the “fear” motivating evangelicals to vote for Trump.
January 20, 2016. In an interview with CNN, Trump blamed Perkins for his “two Corinthians” gaffe during remarks at Liberty University, saying that Perkins had given him notes on what to say at Liberty (the Bible verse Trump referenced comes from the book known as Second Corinthians). Perkins said that the gaffe “shows that he’s not familiar with Bible,” adding that “Trump’s a very interesting guy.”
January 26, 2016. Perkins officially endorsed Ted Cruz during an interview on Fox News’ The Kelly File, calling Cruz the “best” candidate “prepared to lead this nation forward.”
February 24, 2016. In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Perkins denounced the “fear” he believed was motivating evangelicals to vote for Trump, saying, “We cannot be driven by fear. … When we are driven by fear, we make mistakes.”
In March, Perkins called Trump’s conduct “antithetical to evangelical teaching” and said that, while Trump might have identified “the problems” in society, he did not have “the solution.” Perkins continued to publicly support Cruz until he dropped out of the race on May 3. After Cruz ended his presidential bid, Perkins joined a small group of evangelical leaders who planned a private meeting with Trump to “reconcile” his candidacy.
March 11, 2016. In an interview with C-SPAN’s Newsmakers, Perkins said that although he “like[d] some of the things Donald Trump is saying,” Trump’s conduct was “antithetical to evangelical teaching.” Perkins declared that he would not “fall in line” to support a candidate just because the candidate was a Republican, and said that he was “very concerned” about what may happen in the general election with Trump as the Republican presidential nominee (emphasis added):
I like some of the things that Donald Trump is saying. I agree with some of the things that he says. I don’t necessarily agree with his policy prescriptions. I think he has identified the problem. I don’t think that he has the solution.
I mean, if we came to that point, it would require sitting down with Donald Trump to see what his pathway forward was in terms of the Supreme Court, who would be vetting judicial nominees, who would be his running mates, who would be involved in his cabinet, what type of policies would he advocate? I am not a lackey for the Republican Party. Just because it’s a Republican candidate, I'm not going to fall in line. It has to be someone who is committed to the core values that we represent at the Family Research Council.
I think that becomes a real problem for Donald Trump if he is a nominee in a general election because I have no doubt that if he were to get the nomination that we would hear several months worth of explaining of his past positions, of his casinos, strip clubs, all these other things that would be used to really suppress evangelical turnout in the general elections. I think it is a huge problem for the Republicans.
March 31, 2016. In a statement from the lobbying arm of FRC responding to Trump’s comments that there needed to be “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, Perkins called Trump “ill informed in this vital issue” and said that Trump’s statements “suggest he should spend more time with pro-life conservatives to gain a better appreciation of what their goals and objectives really are.”
May 17, 2016. In an interview with CNN, Perkins said it was “incumbent upon Trump to reach out with tangible steps to quell anxiety in the movement if he is to ensure a strong GOP turnout in November,” though Trump “has not done anything that would make people change their minds.”
May 20, 2016. Time magazine reported that Perkins was part of a small group of evangelical leaders planning a private meeting on June 21 with Trump to reconcile concerns about Trump’s candidacy.
After Trump met with evangelical leaders, Perkins said that they're “not quite there” in supporting Trump. But two days after that, Perkins announced that he will vote for Trump in November, adding “it is not something that I relish.” A month later at the Republican National Convention, Perkins delivered a speech formally endorsing Trump, citing Trump’s potential judicial nominees, VP pick, and the Republican Party platform as evidence that Trump was “committed to upholding and protecting the first freedom.” On August 11, Perkins announced that Trump was slated to be the first GOP presidential nominee to ever speak at the Values Voter Summit.
June 21, 2016. After meeting with evangelical leaders, Trump announced the creation of “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board” for his campaign. Perkins, who largely organized the event, said that evangelicals were “not quite there” on supporting Trump.
June 23, 2016. On his Washington Watch radio show, Perkins said he would be voting for Trump because “it’s really the only one of the two options we have” and admitted he did not “relish” the vote. Perkins reasoned that the decision to vote for Trump was “pragmatic” because “we don’t know what Donald Trump will do, but we can shape the outcome”:
I mean I’m not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, I’m going to vote for Donald Trump, because it’s really the only one of the two options we have. Now, will I actively support him and work for him? I don’t know. That’s yet to be decided. There’s several factors to look at. But I think we need to be very careful going into this election.
We don’t know what Donald Trump will do, but we can shape the outcome.
This is not something that I relish, that I am excited about. But from a pragmatic point I think there’s opportunity. Let me just say this, about Donald Trump and what I seem. He does seem to be open, teachable. Has he made past mistakes? Without question. And I’m not going to try to rationalize them. Has he made choices I disagree with? Absolutely, without question. But, how is he going to go forward? That’s the whole thing about evangelical Christianity.
July 12, 2016. Perkins successfully pushed the Republican Party’s platform committee to add language supporting so-called "conversion" or "reparative therapy,” a harmful and discredited treatment that attempts to “cure” children of being LGBT, to the party platform.
From his judicial nominees to his running mate, to the Party platform and the policies it promotes, Donald Trump has committed to upholding and protecting the first freedom and therefore our ability as citizens to unite our nation once again under God.
August 11, 2016. Perkins released a statement announcing that Trump would be addressing the 11th Values Voter Summit on September 9, noting that this “is the first time a Republican nominee for president has addressed the Values Voter Summit since its inception in 2006” (emphasis added):
We are therefore very encouraged that Donald Trump has accepted our invitation to address the Values Voter Summit and make his case directly to conservative activists from across the country. The fact that he is the first Republican nominee to attend since the Summit's inception in 2006, demonstrates his understanding of the importance of values voters in the general election and his desire to work with them in addressing the critical issues facing our nation.
August 20, 2016. In the wake of devastating flooding in Louisiana, CNN Reporter Ashley Killough tweeted that Trump had donated $100,000 to the Greenwell Spring Baptist Church in Greenwell Springs, LA. Perkins, whose home was severely damaged by the flooding, is currently serving as interim minister of the church.
Fox News host Sean Hannity is one of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s most devout defenders in right-wing media. Since Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, Hannity has attacked anyone that criticized Trump, including those in right-wing media, politicians, and even the Pope.
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Media Note Cruz “Body Slammed” Trump’s Convention And “Ruined” The Night
Media figures expressed disbelief over Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) refusal to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, calling him a “sore loser” who “ruined” the night.
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Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.
As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” -- or, as others have noted, outrageous insults -- within hours of being lauded as “presidential.”
In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.
In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech -- devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter -- that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.
Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitali wrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”
CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:
“It's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”
GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.
The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.
Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:
But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.
Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”
The "pivot" narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.
Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko.
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.
Mic reporter Tom McKay explained that, while Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) “presidential ambitions died” in May, his “large, well-funded and well-connected conservative network” made up of “sinister extremists,” conservative talk radio hosts, and “far-right think tank” leaders will survive long after his presidential bid.
Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid gained early support from talk radio hosts like Steve Deace and Michael Berry, each who have long records of espousing extremist, bigoted rhetoric. Deace has accused Democrats of leading a “war on whites” and warned of an army of jihadists coming to take over America to argue for a higher white birth rate. Berry has a record of racially charged rhetoric, including describing black people as “jungle animals,” referring to protesting University of Missouri football players as “thugs,” and mocking victims of Chicago gun violence. As Media Matters’ Angelo Carusone explained, “Powerful media hosts like Deace used their ties with the [Cruz] campaign ‘to advance their own cache and appeal to their audiences and reinforce their own relevancy.’”
The May 26 Mic article highlighted these figures and explained that the rise of Cruz’s network “will likely linger long after the initial rush has faded.” The article also pointed out that “Cruz was part of a ‘cumulative effect’ driving other candidates, including Trump, to the right,” which has allowed Trump’s campaign to have “‘really inspired proper right wing extremists … to climb out from under the political rocks in which they have been hiding.’”
From the May 26 Mic piece:
Unlike other Republican contenders this year, Cruz busied himself building a large, well-funded, and well-connected conservative network. Some of these boosters and advisers will go on to play a role in the Trump campaign, while others may become future standard-bearers of the ideological conservative movement.
Cruz "put a lot of emphasis in sort of delegating the organizing to the media figures and to the leaders within those spaces," said Angelo Carusone, executive vice president of progressive media watchdog Media Matters. "People like [radio hosts] Steve Deace in Iowa and Michael Berry in Texas, Glenn Beck, these are people that one, he's pumped a fairly large amount of money into advertising his programming ... they're serving as a validator for him and they're doing their very best to convert their audiences."
Michael Berry is one of the most important figures in talk radio in Houston, Texas, where he uses his platform to spread racially charged opinions on young black kids who have run-ins with the police ("jungle animals"), Islamic culture ("forced genital mutilation") and Black Lives Matter (a "pro-thug narrative"). One of the regularly occurring segments of his show is appearances from a blackface performer using the stage name Shirley Q. Liquor, whose act has been repeatedly protested as racist.
"The more candidates tout him as important (as Cruz does regularly), the more his language becomes commonplace and becomes part of what is considered acceptable on the right," wrote Media Matters Associate Research Director Sal Colleluori in an email to Mic. "This is of extreme value to Cruz specifically, but even Trump. The more we mainstream anti-immigrant and anti-African-American language, the more their base of support is used to hearing — and sympathizing with — these extreme notions."
Steve Deace, a nationally syndicated radio host originally based out of Iowa, boasts an audience of tens of thousands of listeners. They tune in to hear the self-declared alpha male rant about the "manginas" in charge of today's GOP, suggest that a "whole generation of women [is] on the lookout for some alpha males" and cast Republican leadership's mission as "pass Obama's agenda, lie to conservatives, defraud voters and total capitulation."
Deace's influence in Iowa helped Cruz obtain a crucial victory in the state — which plays a crucial role in shaping media perceptions of viability due to its early primary dates — by helping mobilize a small but vocal vanguard of far-right activists in conjunction with other organizers like U.S. Rep. Steve King and evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats. According to the Des Moines Register, Deace was a key leader of a team of 12,000 volunteers who made 25,000 calls and 2,000 home visits daily in the days leading to the vote. He has simultaneously used his prominence to land key appearances on national media, where he tones down the rhetoric to make him and Cruz seem more reasonable.
According to Matthew Feldman, a professor of fascist ideology at Teesside University, Cruz was part of a "cumulative effect" driving other candidates, including Trump, to the right.
"In most people's lifetimes there hasn't been a frontrunning candidate who has pushed so many far-right buttons as Trump, or for that matter, Ted Cruz," Feldman wrote. "But it is only Trump's campaign that has really inspired proper right wing extremists, who have found the broken taboos around race, political violence and conspiracy theory a real boon for their brand of revolutionary politics. It is the first time in more than a generation they have been able to climb out from under the political rocks in which they have been hiding."