When Ted Cruz dismissed Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's questions to him on immigration as something a "liberal journalist" would ask, the right-wing Media Research Center applauded it. After all, that evasion tactic is straight from the MRC playbook.
The MRC reinforces to conservatives that any tough question a journalist would want to ask them is, by definition, a "liberal" question and, thus, does not need to be answered. After all, conservatives know that they will never face tough questions when they appear on Fox News.
Here's how this works in practice, as seen through assorted MRC blog posts and items:
- MRC analyst Jeffrey Meyer claimed that in an interview with Ben Carson, "CBS This Morning's Norah O'Donnell repeatedly hit the famed neurosurgeon from the left on abortion," though Meyer never explained how the question O'Donnell asked Carson -- whether he would ban abortions in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother -- was "from the left." Still, Meyer praised Carson for having "pushed back against O'Donnell's liberal question."
- Meyer insisted that asking whether the Republican Party has issues with women and minority voters was a "liberal assertion," complaining that in an interview with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, CBS' O'Donnell "made sure to push the liberal line about whether or not the GOP has a 'problem with women voters?'"
- MRC research director Rich Noyes declared that CBS anchor Scott Pelley was pestering House speaker John Boehner with "obnoxious liberal questions," like whether President Obama deserves any credit for an improving economy or if "just sending bills up to the White House that are gonna get vetoed" is an effective way to govern.
- MRC chief Brent Bozell sneered that during a Republican debate, NBC's Brian Williams "pounded Ron Paul like a haughty Swedish socialist to defend his libertarian views." Bozell offered no examples of these allegedly "haughty Swedish socialist" questions.
- Bozell's lieutenant, Tim Graham, complained that in the same debate, Williams asked "nasty, shamelessly liberal questions," but the only one he cited was asking Rick Perry if he "struggled to sleep at night" over the idea that any of the 234 inmates on death row executed under Perry's watch might have been innocent. Graham didn't explain how that question is "shamelessly liberal."
- Noyes wrote that in presidential candidate townhall debates, journalists favor "liberal questions" over "conservative questions." But Noyes offered no definition of what constituted a "liberal question" for the purposes of his survey, beyond the vague notion that it's something that would "favor liberal causes."
Notice a pattern there? The MRC effectively defines the nebulous "liberal question" to a conservative candidate as nothing more than a tough question that challenges them to explain their views. Because they don't want to answer the question anyway, deflecting it as a "liberal question" gives them an excuse not to answer it, as well as having the side benefit of playing to the base, whom the MRC and other conservative organizations have spent millions of dollars over the past few decades inculcating in conservatives the urge to despise as "liberal media" any outlet that dares to ask tough questions of conservatives.
So of course Cruz would invoke the MRC-approved tactic of deflecting a question he didn't want to answer as something a "liberal journalist" would ask, even though the idea that anyone would consider Megyn Kelly a "liberal journalist" strains logic.
But then, the MRC seems content to throw its conservative friends at Fox News under the bus for the sake of ideological purity; it was curiously silent about the questions Fox anchors asked at the recent Republican presidential debate after they proved a little too challenging for some of the candidates -- or, in the words of the complainers, the questions sounded like they came from liberal journalists. Perhaps it had to stay silent; a Fox-hosted debate is what the MRC wanted after years of complaining that Republicans were holding debates on non-Fox news channels where they are in allegedly greater danger of those "liberal" questions.
The MRC conditions conservative candidates to dismiss tough questions as "liberal." Ted Cruz demonstrated the results of that conditioning.