Rick Santorum accused Jeff Zeleny of “bullshit” after the New York Times reporter asked him this weekend to clarify his claim that Mitt Romney “is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.”
“Quit distorting our words,” Santorum told Zeleny after a Wisconsin campaign rally. Rather, the candidate said, he was talking about Romney’s health care policies, so Zeleny’s simple request for clarification amounts to that mild expletive: “If I see it, it’s bullshit. Come on man. What are you doing?”
Zeleny appeared on CBS ‘This Morning’ today to dissect the exchange, telling Charlie Rose, “What he is trying to do is make his case to Republican voters here and it’s a very common tactic for Republican presidential candidates or even Democratic presidential candidates — use the media as a foil here.”
“We’ve seen Newt Gingrich do it throughout the campaign. He clearly knew the cameras were rolling here,” Zeleny explained.
Santorum, meanwhile, sat down with an outlet more friendly than the Times, Fox News, to tell his side of the story. According to the presidential candidate, he was just doing his Republican duty: “If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not really a real Republican.” Santorum’s clearly trying to turn bullshit into chicken salad.
Zeleny’s on the money when he says Santorum must have been cognizant of the cameras, and Santorum’s comments about being a “real Republican” lend credence to this theory. For generations, the GOP have used “the media” as a whipping post. Democrats do it, too, but not as often and not with as much wrath as the right. The media, you see, is an offshoot of academia, and we know how the Republicans feel about academia: just a bunch of egghead liberals. The New York Times is the standard-bearer for the media’s alleged left-leaning bias, which allows Rick to turn his exchange with Zeleny into a badge of honor.
Was this Santorum’s intention all along? I doubt it, but he’s sure spinning it to seem that way. Maybe some of the nation’s more rabid conservatives will be convinced by this silly defense, but the rest of us can without guilt invoke that fecal-laden malediction of which he’s clearly fond.