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Thursday, August 18, 2022

OPINION:

An ancient proverb — “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” — perfectly illustrates the relationship between the corporate media and soon-to-be-former Rep. Liz Cheney

The media have fallen in love with Wyoming’s lone member of the House of Representatives, though under normal conditions, they would scorn the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. But because she has declared war on former President Donald Trump, Ms. Cheney is now lionized as a figure of singular importance in American history.


An occasional critic of Mr. Trump during his presidency, Ms. Cheney shifted into full “never Trump” mode after the 2020 election, culminating in her vice chairmanship of the Jan. 6 committee and her curious reelection strategy of relentlessly attacking the former president in a state he twice won with nearly 70% of the vote.

Ms. Cheney was crushed this week in an epic Republican primary blowout by Harriet Hageman, a prominent and accomplished property rights and constitutional attorney in Wyoming. Given the state’s enormous Republican majority, Ms. Hageman will assuredly win the general election in November and become the state’s next congresswoman in January. 

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be clear that I served as an adviser on Ms. Hageman’s campaign team, which was steered by the firm National Public Affairs, led by my former Trump 2020 campaign colleagues Bill Stepien, Justin Clark and Nick Trainer.   

We saw the familiar phenomenon of media parachuting into a red state just before an election to infiltrate the local population like it’s an anthropological expedition. Reporters fanned out across Wyoming, treating voters like subjects in a National Geographic documentary. With scarcely concealed amazement, fawning profiles of Ms. Cheney were forced to note that public polls had her trailing by as much as 30 points.

The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich was allowed to attend a Cheney event in a private home and wrote that she was “a lonely exemplar of courage” in the Republican Party.

Internal conflict surfaced at the leftist publication Mother Jones, which fretted about Ms. Cheney’s Republican history throughout a piece titled, “Hero: Liz Cheney.” 

At The New York Times, her doomed reelection campaign was described as “a sort of high-profile stage for her martyrdom — and a proving ground for her new crusade.”

CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota contemplated a Cheney loss and wondered, “What does that mean for our democracy?”

And in a revealing segment, CNN political analyst Nia-Malika Henderson actually admitted that “her party in many ways is the [Washington] Beltway media.”

There was widespread drumbeating for the last-ditch Cheney effort to convince state Democrats to switch parties to vote in the GOP primary, as Wyoming law allows — a tactic she had previously disavowed.  

“That means Democrats can weigh in on Liz Cheney’s race in a major way,” reported ABC News excitedly, spotlighting several party-switchers.

Among local outlets, so much hope was placed in this strategy that WyoFile, a news website in Wyoming, ran a story promoting an analysis that claimed the election was “going to be far closer than conventional wisdom suggests.”

On the Cowboy State Daily website, columnist and publisher emeritus Bill Sniffin predicted a near-dead heat, with Ms. Cheney losing by only 100 votes. This forecast relied on the belief that the winner would “barely get 60,000 votes.”

In reality, as of this writing, the official vote tally has Ms. Hageman receiving 113,025 votes — almost twice what Mr. Sniffin predicted — and leading Ms. Cheney by 63,709, which is considerably more than 100.

Ms. Hageman won the election by more than 37 percentage points.

And the media reactions were predictable.

It’s not often that a losing candidate takes a victory lap, but NBC’s “Today Show” facilitated one by giving Ms. Cheney a heavily-promoted appearance the morning after her defeat. To NBC’s delight, she pledged to continue her fight against Mr. Trump, perhaps as a presidential candidate in 2024.

CNN commentator Asha Rangappa tweeted, “Imagine if you told your 2002 self that in 20 years you were going to be REALLY sad that Dick Cheney’s daughter lost the Republican primary.”

Vox reasoned that the loss freed Ms. Cheney to pursue her anti-Trump crusade without the pesky concern of a reelection campaign distracting her.

And Politico sensationalized Ms. Cheney’s claim that she attempted to reach Ms. Hageman several times on election night and ultimately left a voicemail to concede defeat. This was treated as an important story, despite evidence provided by the Hageman campaign, which showed only one incoming call from Ms. Cheney’s phone and a voicemail that said simply, “Hi, Harriet,” and nothing more.

But the voters of Wyoming have spoken, and in a few months, Ms. Cheney will no longer be a member of Congress. And because she will continue her war on Mr. Trump, the media will have their hero to champion for a while longer.

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and the founder and principal of Line Drive Public Affairs, a communications consulting firm where he advises political candidates and corporate clients.


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