The New York Times published a blistering report on Monday discussing the role of conservative media – “far-right” sites – and talk radio hosts in influencing the Republican Party, focusing particularly on how they are portraying Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as a traitor to conservatism in an effort to block the push by many Republicans to make him the next Speaker of the House.
Jennifer Steinhauer began her article writing that: “Far-right media figures, relatively small in number but potent in their influence, have embarked on a furious Internet expedition to cover Representative Paul D. Ryan in political silt.”
Steinhauer goes on to quote Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who stated:
The influence of conservative websites has enraged members who were once considered right of center themselves and who are desperately trying to keep Mr. Ryan from getting spooked. “Anyone who attacks Paul Ryan as being insufficiently conservative is either woefully misinformed or maliciously destructive.”
Paul Ryan has played a major role in advancing the conservative cause and creating the Republican House majority. His critics are not true conservatives. They are radical populists who neither understand nor accept the institutions, procedures and traditions that are the basis of constitutional governance.
The article goes on to cite specific “far-right” pundits and news sites, noting “the current flak following Mr. Ryan stems from a growing and powerful collection of far-right pundits and news media — from Mark Levin to Laura Ingraham to the sites RedState and Breitbart and the new Conservative Review — that have successfully wielded influence over Republican voters and lawmakers in strongly conservative districts.”
Steinhauer continued, writing that:
While the influence of Fox News on conservative voters has been well documented, “There’s a lot we don’t know about this bumper crop of digital news start-ups of the past five or 10 years, especially ad-supported ones,” said Jesse Holcomb the associate director of journalism research at the Pew Research Center. “Many aren’t public and don’t produce earnings statements and aren’t required to release information on revenue or profit margins.”
But House Republicans and their staff say millions of Republican primary voters have their opinions shaped by sites like Breitbart.com, which define a version of the conservative position of the moment, then whip their readers into a frenzy, imploring them to oppose anyone who takes a different position.
Alex Marlow, the editor in chief of Breitbart, defended their reporting, stating: “Our goal is not influence; it is reporting and highlighting stories important to grass roots conservatives,” adding:
To those in Congress and on the national political stage who want to better understand this constituency’s interests and worldview, we feel Breitbart News is a good place to start. Our focus on issues like spending, trade and particularly immigration are a reflection of the fact that there are massive populations of center-right Americans who do not favor the policies most often associated with the Republican Party establishment.