Some In GOP Criticize Fox For Failing Its Audience

Nov 9, 2012
Originally published on November 16, 2012 12:17 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


A lively post-election debate has sprung up, in conservative circles, about the conservative media. The question is whether Republicans were well-served by pundits who insisted Mitt Romney would win on Election Day. Governor Romney even told reporters on Election Day that he was so certain of victory, he hadn't even drafted a concession speech.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has this story on misplaced conservative confidence, and how it was spread by sympathetic news outlets.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The noted conservative political analyst Michael Barone, and conservative columnist George Will, each predicted a landslide in the Electoral College for Romney. But they were far from alone. You would've heard a steady diet of such punditry, on Fox News - for weeks.


NEWT GINGRICH: I believe the minimum result will be 53-47 Romney; over 300 electoral votes...

DICK MORRIS: Absolutely. Romney will win this election by five to 10 points in the popular vote, and will carry more than 300 electoral votes...

KARL ROVE: Two hundred and eighty five for Romney; 253 for Obama. I have Romney carrying all the McCain states - plus taking Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire...

FOLKENFLIK: That was former House Speaker New Gingrich; political consultant Dick Morris, who aided both Bill Clinton and major Republicans; and former chief George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, now also a top analyst for Fox - and a top fundraiser for a political action committee that spent $300 million against President Obama and his fellow Democrats. This morning, conservative commentator - and former George W. Bush speechwriter - David Frum appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," and leveled a charge against his fellow pundits.


DAVID FRUM: The conservative followership has been fleeced, exploited and lied to by the conservative entertainment complex.


FOLKENFLIK: Frum demurred, though he has pointed to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, in the past. He argued that conservative media have failed their audiences by cheerleading, rather than reflecting what was actually happening in the race.

FRUM: The activists are so mistaken about the nature of the problems the country faces. I mean, just a simple question - and I went to Tea Party rallies, and I would ask this question: Have taxes gone up or down, in the past four years? They could not answer that question correctly.

FOLKENFLIK: Host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, seconded Frum's critique, and said he was a reminded of what happened when the German army overtook France, in 1940.

SCARBOROUGH: The French generals reassuring Churchill - day after day, week after week - that the French were putting up a brave defense; when they knew the war was already lost.

FOLKENFLIK: Romney loyalists had insisted his momentum wasn't being reflected in the most recent polls. But those polls were showing an edge for President Obama, especially in key battleground states. Byron York is the chief political correspondent for the conservative Washington Examiner. He reported from Romney's headquarters on Election Night.

BYRON YORK: The thing that struck me, talking to Romney supporters at the convention center, right after he had conceded, was that so many of them said they were incredibly shocked at this. They had come to the event, expecting Romney to win. They were really stunned when it turned out that he hadn't.

FOLKENFLIK: A number of Romney supporters told York, Tuesday night, they had been influenced both by the campaign's internal polls; and very much by what they read in print, and heard on the air. The assumption among conservatives - as York found, when he pressed Romney's strategists - was that Democrats would not vote at the same levels they did in 2008, in electing Mr. Obama the first time. And that meant many conservatives argued the polls, themselves, were skewed because they showed a Democratic advantage.

But the trade of polling, was vindicated. The Examiner's Byron York said there was a logic behind the Republicans' belief, but they were unable to question that thinking at a time they needed to most.

YORK: You had this kind of mutually reinforcing phenomenon going on between the Romney campaign, some influential commentators. And then a lot of that commentary then gets repeated, in the media at large.

FOLKENFLIK: And that's how a defeat foreshadowed by the polls, can still come as a surprise to those on the losing end.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.