FLASHBACK: Leftist Media HATED Republicans Long Before Trump

It’s one of those rhetorical devices you often hear on the liberal networks: media condemnations of “today’s Republican Party,” suggesting that if only Ronald Reagan, George Bush, or Mitt Romney were in charge instead of Donald Trump, journalists would be brimming with respect for the Grand Old Party.

“Much of today’s Republican Party has been permeated by extremism,” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria blasted in 2021 as he called for an “exorcism” to purge the evil spirits.

MSNBC’s Mike Brzezinski was more directly partisan: “The Democratic party is the world’s last, best, hope against fascism,” she railed in 2022, “against an extreme, autocratic anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-contraception, anti-freedom collection of fascists, who dominate the Trump wing of today’s Republican Party.”

It’s all convenient revisionism; the same media aggressively trashed yesterday’s Republican party and old-fashioned traditional conservatives, too. “Republicans have been truly despicable on race,” Newsweek’s Joe Klein fulminated in 1994. Two years later, Time’s Jack E. White insinuated “cynical conservatives” were the real culprits behind a cluster of church burnings in 1996. “They may not start fires, but they fan the flames.”

When Obama ran in 2008, Newsweek’s writers deplored online conservatives as “merchants of slime and sellers of hate.” In 2010, a Washington Post columnist likened the anti-tax Tea Party to the segregationist mobs in the 1950s who wanted to lynch a girl just for trying to attend high school.

In 2012, an MSNBC host accused Mitt Romney — Mitt Romney! — of a cynical strategy of “niggerization” against President Obama: “He’s really trying to use racial coding and access some really deep stereotypes about the angry black man. This is part of the playbook against Obama.”

“Today’s Republican party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis,” accused another Washington Post columnist in early 2015, when Jeb Bush was seen as the likely GOP candidate for president. “It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”

So don’t believe the revisionist spin that liberal journalists respected Republicans and conservatives before Donald Trump and MAGA came along and ruined everything. Here are a dozen quotes that show otherwise:

■ “Traditionally — at least since Nixon’s ‘southern strategy’ — Republicans have been truly despicable on race, and there are more than a few stalwarts who continue to bloviate disingenuously in support of a ‘colorblind’ society, by which they mean a tacit relapse into segregation.”
Newsweek’s Joe Klein, writing in the magazine’s June 24, 1994 issue.

■ “Over the past 18 months, while Republicans fulminated about welfare and affirmative action, more than 20 churches in Alabama and six other Southern and Border states have been torched….There is already enough evidence to indict the cynical conservatives who build their political careers, George Wallace-style, on a foundation of race-baiting. They may not start fires, but they fan the flames.”
Time national correspondent Jack E. White, March 18, 1996 issue.

■ “The Republican Party has been successfully scaring voters since 1968, when Richard Nixon built a Silent Majority out of lower- and middle-class folks frightened or disturbed by hippies and student radicals and blacks rioting in the inner cities….The real question is whether he [Sen. John McCain] can — or really wants to — rein in the merchants of slime and sellers of hate who populate the Internet and fund the ‘independent expenditure’ groups who exercise their freedom in ways that give a bad name to free speech.”
— Richard Wolffe and Evan Thomas in an eight-page cover package touting “The O Team,” May 19, 2008 Newsweek.

■ “The angry faces at Tea Party rallies are eerily familiar. They resemble faces of protesters lining the street at the University of Alabama in 1956 as Autherine Lucy, the school’s first black student, bravely tried to walk to class. Those same jeering faces could be seen gathered around the Arkansas National Guard troopers who blocked nine black children from entering Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. ‘They moved closer and closer,’ recalled Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine. ‘Somebody started yelling, “Lynch her! Lynch her!”’”
The Washington Post’s Colbert King in a March 27, 2010 column.

■ “Tonight, we start with the party of hate. The Republican Party in this country has been running on hate and division for the last 50 years….What black person, gay guy or girl, immigrant or Muslim American in their right mind would vote for the Republican Party? They might as well hang a sign around their neck saying, ‘I hate myself.’”
— Fill-in host Cenk Uygur on MSNBC’s The Ed Show, August 26, 2010.

■ “You notice he [Mitt Romney] says ‘anger’ twice. He’s really trying to use racial coding and access some really deep stereotypes about the angry black man. This is part of the playbook against Obama. The other-ization, he’s not like us. I know it’s a heavy thing to say. I don’t say it lightly. But this is niggerization, ‘You are not one of us,’ and that ‘you are like the scary black man who we’ve been trained to fear.’”
— Co-host Touré on MSNBC’s The Cycle, August 16, 2012.

■ “A Romney takeover of the White House might well rival Andrew Johnson’s ascendancy to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865….A Romney win would be worrisome…because of his strong embrace of states’ rights and his deep mistrust of the federal government — sentiments Andrew Johnson shared….Johnson stood by as Southern states enacted ‘black codes,’ which restricted rights of freed blacks and prevented blacks from voting. Romney stood by last year as Republican-controlled state legislatures passed voter-identification laws, making it harder for people of color, senior citizens and people with disabilities to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”
Washington Post editorial writer Colbert I. King in his November 3, 2012 column, “Mitt Romney could be the next Andrew Johnson.”

■ “Why do we have so many know-nothings in the Congress who deny not just mankind’s history, or the obvious evidence of climate change, but the fiscal arithmetic that stares us in the face?…What do you call this, this dangerous zig-zagging toward the abyss… while the zealots of the right wing scream louder and louder that victory lies in catastrophe — Kool-Aid for everyone, and defeatists will be shot!”
— Chris Matthews opening MSNBC’s Hardball, October 7, 2013.

■ “The story of this political crisis is really, you know, the culpability not just of the Republican crazies, but of the Republican non-crazies. I mean, how did we get to the point where Mitch McConnell is Rand Paul’s bitch?… Where’s the heroism in your own party? I mean, why aren’t the moderate Republicans, you know, fighting back? We’re always saying why don’t, you know, the moderate Muslims fight jihad, but, you know, this is jihad.”
The Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown interviewing Senator John McCain on October 10, 2013 for her Web site’s annual “Hero Summit,” a clip of which was shown later that day on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports.

■ “The essence of this Tea Party is a racist institution. It is born of the fact that they cannot stand the fact that a black man is President of the United States. But it also shows me that despite what happened in Virginia — right? — this Republican Party hasn’t learned one lesson. They still will go as far right as they can, as extreme on the extreme fringe of the Republican Party. That’s who’s leading the party today.”
— Former CNN Crossfire co-host Bill Press on MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, December 16, 2013.

■ “There are a few things I hate more than the NRA [National Rifle Association]. I mean truly. I think they’re pigs. I think they don’t care about human life. I think they are a curse upon the American landscape.”
— Former NBC and CBS morning news host Bryant Gumbel in an interview with Rolling Stone posted January 20, 2015.

■ “Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”
Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, April 8, 2015.

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.                        
 

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