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Mitt Romney, formerly the standard-bearer of the Republican Party, believes that the conservative media machine is responsible for the radicalization that has distorted the GOP.
The senator from Utah and former GOP presidential candidate unleashed a barrage of criticism aimed directly at the information sphere in which most party members consume their news, and in a forthcoming book he describes it as reality. Besides, it has been characterized as a perilous propaganda factory that contaminates the minds of its audience.
Romney’s candid evaluation of the conservative media apparatus appears in “Romney: A Reckoning,” an upcoming book by The Atlantic journalist Mackey Coppins, who was granted a series of exclusive interviews and unprecedented access to the outgoing senator.
“It’s difficult to envision,” Romney said in an excerpt from the book, which Coppins shared with CNN, but Tucker Carlson is transforming the GOP into “a pro-Russia, pro-establishment party.”
“And it’s not like how it used to be,” Romney said.
In another instance, Romney expressed concern over how influential stories in the conservative media sector demonized individuals he believed should have been celebrated, such as those grappling with mental health issues. An Olympian struggling.
“It’s almost as if you take something that’s praiseworthy and well-documented and say, ‘Let’s attack it!’” Romney said.
His incisive analysis of the media consumed by Republicans is particularly noteworthy, considering that he once maintained close relationships with its leading figures. However, that relationship disintegrated with the ascent of Donald Trump within the Republican Party, ushering in a new era characterized by vicious attacks on political opponents, smearing of the press, embracing conspiracy theories, and an audacious assault on the truth.
The distorted political climate rendered Romney, who once embodied traditional conservative values, an outcast to conservative media personalities who, after a brief internal conflict, fully embraced him following Trump’s election. Speaking to Coppins, Romney expressed surprise at how he has been personally vilified by the same people who once hailed him as a worthy leader for the nation’s highest office.
Coppins wrote that at one point in 2019, after watching a clip of Fox News host and pro-Trump advocate Sean Hannity in which he referred to him as a “weak, sanctimonious Washington swamp politician,” Romney decided to reach out to an old colleague.
But the conversation didn’t go well, with Hannity reprimanding Romney and accusing him of making certain remarks to appease the mainstream media. “You’re only doing this because you want to be praised on MSNBC!” Hannity told Romney, as recounted in the book. Hannity then challenged Romney on Hunter Biden and became irritated when the senator admitted to not being aware of Burisma, according to the book: “How can you not know what Burisma is?”
Romney asked Coppins if Carlson — the former Fox News host who became the network’s ratings champion through inflammatory, anti-immigrant, conspiratorial statements — was exerting influence on Hannity.
Romney told Coppins, “I can only imagine that Sean Tucker is frustrated with being surpassed by Carlson and his daily efforts to regain the top-rated throne.” “He’s very much like Tucker. Not as effective as Tucker – Tucker is astute.”
Through a spokesperson, Hannity said he “wishes only the best” for the soon-to-be former senator.
Hannity remarked, “It’s quite evident that losing the presidency has turned Mitt into a petty, resentful, and exceedingly bitter man.” “It’s disheartening to witness.”
Despite his feelings towards Hannity, Romney acknowledged that the issue runs deeper, placing blame on Fox News, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, as an institution for some of the inflammatory rhetoric that has permeated public discourse. After watching former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs make sensationalistic remarks about immigrants, Romney wrote an email to a few political confidants, calling Fox a “serious problem.”
According to Coppins, Romney wrote, “Lou is an imbecile.” “Fox is a liability.”