Ratings-Starved Piers Morgan Pushes Wacky Romney-Jeremiah Wright Conspiracy Theory

Even after Mitt Romney condemned a proposed controversial super PAC ad attacking President Obama, CNN's Piers Morgan couldn't help but speculate on whether the candidate was still playing dirty. On Thursday's Piers Morgan Tonight he wondered aloud if the Romney campaign leaked the failed proposal to the press to keep the Reverend Wright controversy in the news.

"And I guess I think the really sinister aspect is, was it part of their intention to just have it leaked to the front page of the New York Times?" the ratings-starved Morgan asked about the Romney campaign. "Then you get all the publicity anyway without actually spending any money."

The proposed ad in question had already been rejected, followed by Romney's "repudiation" of it – but the media still jumped on the story. And ironically, Piers was doing the same thing he accused Mitt Romney of doing – keeping the mention of Reverend Wright in the news cycle by running three straight segments on the failed ad proposal.

Guest Kurt Andersen shot down Morgan's theory. "I just think it's too stupid. I think this doesn't do them any good," he said of the campaign. Piers wouldn't budge, though, and kept pushing his speculation.

"But Mitt Romney can stand as he did today and say, look, I knew nothing about this. I'm as appalled as you are. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Wright, who had disappeared off the radar, is now all over the news agenda again. And you can bet your life that they will be repeating now all over cable stations in America. They'll be playing his incendiary comments."

Cue the irony of Morgan keeping Wright in the news while complaining about the media doing so. Meanwhile, even Time's Mark Halperin said it was "McCarthyism" to hold Mitt Romney responsible for the ad. Yet Morgan still grasped at a connection between Romney and the ad, through a tenuous "leak" he thinks may have happened.

"The media tends to take associations of Republican candidates and make – tie them around the neck of the Republican and say Mitt Romney has to account for every Republican out there, every conservative, every idea," Halperin declared on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Friday.

"It's McCarthyism to say Mitt Romney is responsible for everybody out there who he has a direct or indirect contact to. That is what the Obama people did. They're raising money off it. They're wasting a day of campaign dialogue on it because it is effective for them," he continued.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on May 17 on Piers Morgan Tonight at 9:49 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

PIERS MORGAN: Well that's what I was saying earlier. To me it's unfeasible that nobody in Mitt Romney's camp – he may have been distanced, plausible deniability and all that.

KURT ANDERSEN, author, "True Believers": Or implausible deniability.

MORGAN: Somebody in his campaign would have known all about this. And I guess I think the really sinister aspect is, was it part of their intention to just have it leaked to the front page of the New York Times? Then you get all the publicity anyway without actually spending any money.

ANDERSEN: My suspicion is not. I don't go that next level of sinister –

MORGAN: Really? Anything about the behavioral patterns of these politicians in Washington the last year made you feel less than cynical?

ANDERSEN: I feel entirely cynical. I just think it's too stupid. I think this doesn't do them any good. I think what you're supposed to do, if you're Mitt Romney's campaign, is make the people who are uncomfortable with a black president feel uncomfortable without ever mentioning black people.

MORGAN: But Mitt Romney can stand as he did today and say, look, I knew nothing about this. I'm as appalled as you are. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Wright, who had disappeared off the radar, is now all over the news agenda again. And you can bet your life that they will be repeating now all over cable stations in America. They'll be playing his incendiary comments.

ANDERSEN: Chickens coming home to roost.

MORGAN: All that stuff. So he's back in the forefront of people's minds in relation to the president.

ANDERSEN: You might be right. My belief is that what this does is not help Romney with the independents, that small group of people truly in the middle who could go either way. This looks cynical and wretched and unappealing.

MORGAN: Yes. However, it may help him with lots of other people, in galvanizing people who have a race element to their thinking.

ANDERSEN: Talk about galvanizing, I think if you're an African-American, 90 plus percent of whom voted for Barack Obama in the last election, this galvanizes you into thinking oh, look at these Republicans; they really are trying to make this dead-and-gone race issue from four years ago a live issue again.

MORGAN: Playing Devil's Advocate, is there any part of Jeremiah Wright which is relevant to this campaign? Is it unacceptable completely for a Republican like Mitt Romney or his campaign to actually use anything that Jeremiah Wright stood for against the President?

ANDERSEN: Nothing is unacceptable. I just think it won't work. And it's – and people judged in 2008 that it was a minor, perhaps briefly disturbing, then put to rest by Barack Obama himself issue. So it's not -- it's not – it's ugly and it's stupid and perhaps beyond the pale by certain judgments. But they can try whatever they want.

MORGAN: This (Inaudible) sort of an unpleasant undertone, the Abe Lincoln reference and all the rest.

ANDERSEN: Metrosexual Abe Lincoln, yeah.

MORGAN: Yeah. It was pretty awful, I thought, to say that. But let's be realistic about political campaigns. When you watched the Republican nominee race, for example, that was pretty vile. You had them all lobbing bombs at each other. And at the end of it, they all kiss and make up and they're all friends again. Is the public really that naive? I mean, do we not just get used, conditioned to this? Has it not always been like this?

ANDERSEN: I don't think it has been as much like this. And I think this corrosive cynicism that is afoot in the land as regards to national politics is just made worse by this. I recommend that people go read this document closely. For instance, one of the things they propose is changing the name of the super PAC to "Character Matters."

MORGAN: Yeah.

ANDERSEN: I mean, you can't – Aaron Sorkin couldn't make that up.

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