Note to Mitt Romney: This is what happens when you run for president on the back of Fox News and embrace the dark anti-Obama conspiracies that fuel the right-wing media.
On Monday, the Republican nominee was forced to hold a rare, late-night press availibility to respond to Mother Jones' report on a video of Romney taken surreptitiously at a closed-door Florida campaign fundraiser in May where the candidate tells donors that "there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
The notion that Obama voters are lazy victims who rely on the government for sustenance from birth to death represents Romney's open embrace of Fox News and the same insulting allegation that it, along with other right-wing talkers, has been making for the last four years. Here, the Republican's long-standing caricature of the lazy welfare recipient gets dramatically expanded to include tens of millions of Americans who vote Democratic and who apparently worship big government and disdain hard work.
The sweeping generalization Romney uses to denigrate so many voters, and the fact he did it behind closed doors while speaking to wealthy donors, is what turned the comments into a significant campaign news event. Writing off nearly half the electorate as selfish dependents who refuse to take responsibilities for their own lives isn't usually how White House candidates frame their campaigns.
What's telling though is how, once again, the fingerprints of Fox News and the right-wing media are all over the Romney campaign and its latest misstep.
Fact: Fox and friends have been railing for years about how Obama is purposefully making more people dependent on the government (an "entitlement state") so he can turn that dependency into votes. Obama, according to the fevered rhetoric from the far-right swamp, wants to radically extend the reach of the government in an effort to extract voter loyalty. "He'd rather you be a slave and be economically dependent upon him," is how Fox favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL) put it.
Remember Glenn Beck's unhinged comparison to Obama as drug-dealer-in-chief?
If he's not a socialist, if he's not a Marxist, then he must be a heroin dealer. I believe our new president is pushing a much more powerful version of heroin, and he is getting people strung out.
Meanwhile, discussing welfare work requirement reform this summer (and while completely misrepresenting the changes the Obama administration implemented at the behest of Republican governors), Fox contributor Laura Ingraham claimed the changes were designed to be a "push for election turnout." Explained Ingraham: "Give more free stuff to people and hope that they come to the polls."
And of course Rush Limbaugh has been relentlessly promoting the unsavory talking point, claiming the Democratic president doesn't "want people leaving the welfare rolls" because "those are voters that are getting away."
All of this strange right-wing media rhetoric has apparently soaked in and has been embraced by the Romney campaign. In fact, just last week, an unnamed Romney adviser complained to National Review that the reason the media are allegedly rooting for Obama is because "the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make."
Again, with this twisted notion that the (socialist!) Obama administration is trying to control people's lives by expanding the size of government, and that Americans who receive government services automatically support Democrats. (No unemployment recipient has ever voted Republican?) Indeed, the Atlantic mapped out where Romney's 47 percent of no-income-tax-paying voters live, and it turns out "those people are disproportionately in red states -- that is, states that tend to vote Republican."
This is the kind of fringe, conspiratorial rhetoric that campaigns usually leave to the periphery. And for good reason. But Mitt Romney is the Fox News candidate and apparently that means echoing every dark, incoherent attack that the talk channel can conjure up.
Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters for America blog.