Among the factors Herman Cain cited in suspending his presidential campaign was the media.
“These false and unproved allegations continue to be spinned in the media, and in the court of public opinion, so as to create a cloud of doubt over me and this campaign and my family,” Cain said to supporters.
It wasn’t the first time Cain criticized the press. He repeatedly refused reporters’ inquiries, especially on foreign policy, as “gotcha questions.”
Cain’s condemnation of “the media” isn’t unique: Some seem to be running against the press as much as for president. But in Cain’s case, his complaint was contradictory: Cain not only relied on press coverage, but has been part of the media, too.
Cain has hosted his own talk radio show. His recent book is published by powerhouse Simon and Shuster. And Cain bypassed the traditional candidate-organizational structure and relied on “the media” to propel his presidential ambitions.
Indeed, until unraveling, Cain became such a ubiquitous front-page and cable news network presence that he boasted on Saturday that “Right now my name I.D. is probably 99.9 percent.”
Attacking “the media” isn’t likely to end anytime soon. From Spiro Agnew’s “nattering nabobs of negativism” to Sarah Palin’s “lamestream media,” shooting the messenger has often been effective.
But politicians-turned-press-critics should remember that “the media” isn’t just MSNBC and the New York Times, but also includes Fox News, the top-rated cable news network, and The Wall Street Journal, the most-read newspaper, and the incredibly influential online Drudge Report.
And conservative talk radio stations, like the one that ran Cain’s program, are often among the highest-rated. It doesn’t get any more mainstream than that.
And within the mainstream media, conservative commentary is far from monolithic on Cain, or any other issue.
And that the Wall Street Journal opined that “This is the weakness that the talk-radio establishment overlooked when it dismissed the sexual-harassment accusations against Mr. Cain as one more left-wing conspiracy. Whether true or not, the accusations resulted in settlements by the National Restaurant Association, where he had been CEO. These were facts on the record. They were bound to come out, especially if he won the nomination.”
And conservative commentator George Will called Cain “an entrepreneurial charlatan,” and accused him of using his campaign as “a book tour.”
So now it’s on to Iowa, where another press-basher, Newt Gingrich, leads the polls
. As the campaign continues, voters would be better off if candidates of both parties, for all offices, focused more on answering, rather than attacking, “the media” – however one defines it.
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John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.