Rick Santorum’s "Bullshit" Moment: Does It Matter?
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum took issue with a question from New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny yesterday while campaigning in Wisconsin, telling him that his question was “bullshit.”
Here’s the video:
It’s rarely a good idea to swear at the media, but in this case, it’s unlikely to hurt Mr. Santorum for at least three reasons.
First, many conservatives harbor a deep distrust of the mainstream media – and no news organization encapsulates the “liberal” media agenda to them more than The New York Times. Santorum isn’t the first person to rail against the Times, either – candidate George W. Bush called reporter Adam Clymer a “major league asshole” while on the trail in 2000:
Second, Santorum is trailing badly in the race for delegates and needs a game changer. Sometimes, a dramatic curse word can help a candidate change the narrative and gain more attention for their issues. In this case, Santorum’s “bullshit” will help him gain more exposure for the issue he was discussing – Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial record on health care reform – which is deeply unpopular with conservatives. Any discussion about that topic will likely help Santorum’s campaign.
Finally, his anger seemed genuine, not manufactured. That will play well to his supporters and other sympathetic conservative voters. But he may have seemed a bit too angry, and he would have benefitted more if the exchange had been a bit shorter.
Michael Sebastian, the managing editor of Ragan’s PR Daily, wrote a terrific piece helping PR folks advise their clients on “how to swear at the media.” It’s a fun read. Among other points, he wrote:
“Make sure the cameras are rolling. What good is an obscenity in print? Check for cameras—cell phones will do—and let loose. Santorum, as Zeleny later said, “knew the cameras were rolling.”
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These guys are entertaining on the campaign trail. Of course most Republicans are quite funny these days. Their rhetoric leaves us with no choice but to laugh. With that, I got work to do.
Good post, but I don’t see how this helps Santorum other than throwing more red meat to his already-rabid conservative fan base. For the rest of the world – including undecided voters or people unhappy with Obama – it just makes him look arrogant, angry and unprofessional. Hardly Presidential.
Also as a side note he should know better than to pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel! Never a good idea to pick fights with or yell at reporters.
Brad – do you get the sense (as I do) that Santorum is not really running for president anymore? He must know he can’t win, and the way he’s going about alienating huge sections of potential general election voters makes me think he’s thrown in the towel and is setting himself up for something. Maybe a huge payday on the right-wing speaking circuit?
Thanks for your comment. I find it a bit tough to speculate on this one – given Mr. Santorum’s righteousness, I wonder if it’s possible that he’s convinced himself that only a true moral exemplar such as himself can win the nomination? But I guess I lean more to your side – in this clip, he seemed to be showing his stress more than usual, suggesting maybe he does know it’s almost over.
As for setting himself up for something, perhaps a future presidential run? He’s only 53-years-old – so the longer he stays in and builds his name recognition, the better his future chances. Although some people think he’s hurting his chances by staying in, my sense is that voters tend to have a short memory about such things. Mr. Santorum has vastly over-performed expectations, and he should be proud that he’s run a better-than-expected campaign.