Newsweek's Eleanor Clift made a rather revealing statement about the media's treatment of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich Sunday.
Shortly after CNN's Howard Kurtz asked his Reliable Sources panel, "Why do some of these commentators have such a deep-seated animus toward Newt," Clift surprising said, "I think he's right about a lot of [things]. And I think that's even more irritating, the fact that he is right" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: In an increasingly shrill media environment, running for president means being attacked, assailed, mocked, ridiculed, bashed, belittled and otherwise denigrated. But rarely have we seen the kind of harsh rhetoric unleashed against a man who's been a national political figure for two decades, the former speaker of the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Gingrich's is an amazingly efficient candidacy, and that it embodies almost everything disagreeable about modern Washington. He's the classic rental politician.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: It's really not surprising coming from me, but that was about the most arrogant and un-self-aware, and those are probably the only words I can use, things for any politician in this Republican field to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disgusting.
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He is a mean, vindictive SOB who does not really care about anything other than power.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC: But if anyone's dirty, it's Newt Gingrich -- a man whose personal morality has been drawn from the sewer, a man who pontificates about his Catholic faith and morality but repeatedly commits adultery.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And that's just some of what's been on television. How much of this has to do with Gingrich's record and how much to do with his relations with the Washington press corps?
Joining us now here in Washington: Danielle Crittenden, author and managing editor of blogs for the "Huffington Post" Canada; Eleanor Clift, Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast"; and Jackie Kucinich, political reporter for "USA Today."
Nice fair and balanced panel to impartially discuss Gingrich: a HuffPost editor, Clift, and the daughter of one of the most liberal members of Congress.
I guess Kurtz and his staff couldn't find anyone right of far-left:
KURTZ: Eleanor Clift, that was some sizzling stuff there. Why do some of these commentators have such a deep-seated animus toward Newt?
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK: Well, first of all, it's hard to feel too sorry for Newt because most people who have been in Washington remember when he came on the scene and routinely instructed Republicans to call Democrats pathetic and corrupt. And he He pioneered going on C-Span and tearing apart your opponent.
But in this --
KURTZ: But the press, of course, is supposed to be fair.
CLIFT: But in this -- in this presidential season, he proves there's more than two or three acts in American life because he's conducted himself very well. I love some of his positions. And I think the press is just having fun with him. And he can handle it. He's handled it very well.
Indeed he has. So much so that a few minutes later came Clift's money quote:
KURTZ: I wonder if journalists are also reacting to a certain air of condescension. I mean, at that debate this week, he said, if we were a serious country, we would do this. He's accused moderators of asking Mickey Mouse questions, gotcha questions -- absurd to expect a 30-second answer on the future of health care. And I wonder if that gets under the skin some people.
CLIFT: I think he's right about a lot of that. And I think that's even more irritating, the fact that he is right. I think he -- he will make a great non-Romney. He will make the race entertaining. He'll make Romney perform.
I think -- I don't think many of us believe that he's going to go on to win the nomination or the presidency. But we could be proven wrong again.
KURTZ: And you may be right. And you may be right. But many of us did not believe that he would be leading in polls at the end of November.
No, you certainly didn't, which likely also irritates the heck of so-called journalists that were quick to predict Gingrich's demise over the summer.
But I think Clift has stumbled on something more important here: Gingrich is far more intelligent than the commentators disparaging him.
And that's likely why they hate him so.