It's been three years since Tucker Carlson called for a conservative New York Times, but the Republican primary has proven that the conservative New York Times is still The New York Times. Newt Gingrich has referenced The New York Times or other newspapers 16 times in debates in the last two months. Mitt Romney has both bashed and defended the press. Journalists' words and faces are being used in an unprecedented number of campaign ads, Politico's Keach Hagey reports, in part because using reporters makes the candidates' attacks seem more credible -- even to conservative, "liberal media"-hating audiences. This love-hate dynamic makes Republicans and reporters seem like a couple stuck in a long-term relationship that alternate between fighting and making out in public.
Gingrich can't stop referencing the media even as he attacks it. Romney, too, has been on both sides of the issue. At a January 7 debate, for example, Gingrich was trying to portray Romney as a robber baron when he was at Bain Capital, citing The Times. "That was, I think, The New York Times story two days ago. They took one specific company. They walked through in detail. They showed what they bought it for, how much they took out of it and the 1,700 people they left unemployed." Romney responded, "I'm not surprised to have The New York Times try and put free enterprise on trial." But a couple weeks later, after Gingrich got such rave reviews by bashing the media in debates, Romney said attacking reporters was a cheap shot:
“It’s very easy to talk down a moderator... The moderator asks a question and then has to sit by and take whatever you send to them. And Speaker Gingrich has been wonderful at attacking the moderators and attacking the media. That’s always a favorite response for the home crowd.”