WaPo's Milbank Admits Media's 'Antipathy' to Santorum

The media has an "antipathy" toward Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, asserted Dana Milbank of the Washington Post on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday. Given the media's treatment of Santorum after his Iowa success, that would be safe to acknowledge.

Milbank noted that the ill-will stems from Santorum's social-conservatism, adding that "liberal pundits and I think the media in general have a particular antipathy towards Rick Santorum because of the cultural differences." When asked why the media were focusing on his social beliefs when voters are concerned about the economy, Milbank lamely responded that "Whenever we focus on the economy, it's terribly boring."

When host Howard Kurtz asked if the antipathy was specifically rooted in Santorum being "An outspoken social conservative," Milbank answered in the affirmative. "With gay rights, with Terry Schiavo, you know, going back to the faith-based initiatives – I think that he has a real clash with sort of the liberal elites," Milbank confirmed.

Later on, the two discussed Santorum's interview with CNN's John King where King pulled up his 2003 AP interview. Although King had misquoted Santorum, Milbank still proceeded to put words in the candidate's mouth.

Milbank added he could "see why" liberal radio host Dan Savage coined a raunchy term "santorum" and created a website to promote it, ensuring the word would show up along with Santorum's name on internet web searches.

Santorum had said in 2003 of homosexuality "It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing." Milbank still thought he was tying it to bestiality by putting them on the "slippery slope" argument.

"Of course he was trying to compare the two. He's saying it's not that, but if you start this, then you go on a slippery slope towards that," Milbank insisted. He then explained the ensuing media outrage and vicious personal attack on Santorum from Dan Savage.

"I can see why people were outraged at him. And I can see why when you Google Santorum, as you just suggested viewers might do, they may be surprised at what they find there. But I don't think we should be surprised that there's so much media focus on this."

 

 

A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 8 at 11:29 a.m. EST, is as follows:

HOWARD KURTZ: Liberal pundits seem to be piling on this presidential candidate over this tragic incident.

DANA MILBANK: Well, I – liberal pundits and I think the media in general have a particular antipathy towards Rick Santorum because of the cultural differences, because he is a –

KURTZ: An outspoken social conservative?

MILBANK: Yeah, and no I think that's true. With gay rights, with Terry Schiavo, you know, going back to the faith-based initiatives – I think that he has a real clash with sort of the liberal elites.

(...)

KURTZ: Santorum getting much more skeptical questioning by particularly television interviewers since he overtook Mitt Romney to finish in a virtual tie – alright, technically eight votes back. Let's look at the exchange he had with John King, which begins with the CNN anchor reading something that Santorum had said. I think it's back in 2003. It's been repeated a million times on the Internet. You can Google it if you like. And we'll take a look at the former senator's response.

(Video Clip)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: "And that's what children, monogamous relationships in every society. The definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing."

 There are a lot of people who are saying, whoa, how do you connect that homosexual behavior to bestiality? And you went on that interview to talk about bigamy. How do you connect those dots?

Former Senator RICK SANTORUM (R-Penn.), Republican presidential candidate: Hold on one sec – hold on a second, John. Read the quote. I said it's not. It is not. I didn't say it is. I said it's not.

(End Video Clip)

KURTZ: I was wondering, Dana Milbank, how long it would take us to hear the phrase "man on dog" in this campaign. Because it –

MILBANK: As often as I can say it.

KURTZ: Is it fair, unfair to throw that back at Santorum? He says he was making - that he was not trying to compare the two, but just the fact that he used the phrase is obviously –

MILBANK: Of course he was trying to compare the two. He's saying it's not that, but if you start this, then you go on a slippery slope towards that. Yes, he was making a distinction, but he was putting the two on the slippery slope. I can see why people were outraged at him. And I can see why when you Google Santorum, as you just suggested viewers might do, they may be surprised at what they find there. But I don't think we should be surprised that there's so much media focus on this.

To say focus on the economy, that's a bit of a red herring. You know what? Whenever we focus on the economy, it's terribly boring. Have a debate on the economy –

(Crosstalk)

KURTZ: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

MILBANK: Everybody's giving the same answer.

KURTZ: So you're saying – you're saying that the press should focus on things like gay marriage and abortion –

MILBANK: No, I'm saying –

(Crosstalk)

KURTZ: Because it's a heck of a lot better show than dealing with the jobless issue.

MILBANK: I'm saying focus on something where there's controversy or there's something interesting.

COSTA: But not the death of Gabriel Santorum. I don't think that's -

MILBANK: No, no, no. I'm not talking about that.

(Crosstalk)

KURTZ: How about contraception, and gay marriage? And is there a sense –

MILBANK: But when you ask questions about the economy and taxes over and over to a Republican debate, it's always the same answer from every one of them. I mean, it puts you to sleep.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014