A new article from The Associated Press is emblematic of the ways in which mainstream media will highlight instances of supposedly “fringe” right-wing extremism, while failing to hold the purportedly mainstream Republican leadership accountable for supporting GOP extremists.
An AP article on October 10 focused on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), chronicling the ways in which she has set the overall agenda for House Republicans with her conspiracy theories and bigoted demagoguery. Where the article failed, however, was in claiming that Greene’s rise from the “GOP fringe” has posed a “challenge” for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — treating the man aspiring to be the next speaker of the House as some kind of passive observer, rather than as an active participant in giving crucial support to Greene and others like her in the increasingly extreme Republican caucus.
From the AP (emphasis added):
This is the outlook for the Republican Party in the Trump era, the normalizing of once fringe figures into the highest ranks of political power. It’s a sign of the GOP’s rightward drift that Greene’s association with extremists and nationalists, violent rhetoric and remarks about Jewish people have found a home in elected office. Her ascent brings into focus the challenge ahead for McCarthy, whose GOP ranks are filling with far-right political stars with the potential to play an oversized role in setting the policies, priorities and tone of the new Congress.
“McCarthy and Greene appear to have come to an understanding that they need each other,” AP chief congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro continued later in the article. “The leader needs Greene to come into the GOP fold rather than throw rocks from outside. She needs McCarthy’s blessing to regain committee assignments, enabling her to participate more fully in Congress and put her imprint on legislation.”
The fact is that McCarthy is an active partner with his caucus’ extremist members, as the AP reported 10 months ago of his decision to actively promote them in order to “generate outrage” and motivate MAGA supporters for Republican campaigns. That article even noted how McCarthy made a deliberate change in his approach to defend members such as Greene, as well as Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), in contrast to his previous decision to shun white nationalist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in 2019.
Mascaro has also written previously on McCarthy’s reliance on the “grievance-laden populism” of former President Donald Trump, as well as McCarthy’s public reversals and groveling about Trump’s responsibility for the January 6 insurrection, all as a calculated move to achieve political power.
And yet as we get closer and closer to Election Day, we can see the pattern in which mainstream media bend over backwards to make McCarthy seem like a serious politician, beset by some kind of “challenge” from extremists members, rather than highlighting the scandal that he has really supported them all the way.
The reason for this kid-gloves treatment may be that the AP thinks McCarthy really could achieve power in the midterm elections, and therefore the news organization would have to work with him as the next speaker of the House — just as other mainstream outlets are seemingly seeking to cozy up to Republicans in preparation for anticipated GOP congressional majorities. (The AP has written about this when it comes to other media outlets.)
By contrast, there is every reason to believe the same outlets would not treat a Republican politician as seriously if they instead seemed to be a sure political loser, as mainstream media demonstrated this year in their open treatment of former Sen. David Perdue’s (R-GA) racism during his failed political comeback.
Now that McCarthy has a plausible chance of becoming speaker of the House, mainstream media tiptoe carefully around his active role in fostering political extremism.