Media Coverage Of Ted Cruz v. Media Coverage Of Wendy Davis
Can differences in media coverage of two unrelated filibusters be explained solely by media bias?
Politico’s Dylan Byers picks up on a theme that I heard repeatedly yesterday from conservatives as Ted Cruz spoke on the Senate floor, namely that there was a difference between the way the media covered Cruz’s “filibuster” and they way they covered that Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster of an abortion bill:
Sen. Ted Cruz has been speaking on the Senate floor for almost 19 hours, as of this post. The talk is not technically a filibuster — he can’t actually block the Senate from going about its business — but symbolically, it’s more or less the same thing. The point is to show one’s opposition to something through a demonstration of physical will.
Which is why you can forgive conservatives for being upset with the mainstream media’s coverage of the Cruz affair. When a Democrat like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters against abortion restrictions, she is elevated to hero status, her tennis shoes become totems. When Cruz grandstands against Obamacare, he is a laughingstock in the eyes of many journalists on Twitter, an “embarrassment” in the eyes of The New York Times editorial board.
“Gee I wonder why NYT and WaPo and everyone else gave ecstatic coverage to Wendy Davis but not to Ted Cruz. I just can’t make sense of it!” John Podhoretz, the conservative columnist, tweeted on Wednesday morning.
Cruz is portrayed in the media as “aimless and self-destructive” (NYT ed board), elitist (GQ) and likely guided more by presidential aspirations than principles (CNN). Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, had no qualms about coming right out and calling Cruz, his former Princeton colleague, an “arrogant jerk” — and worse.
After Davis’s filibuster in June, she got a glowing Vogue profile and was interviewed by nearly every major network and show that deemed her the new superstar from the Lone Star.
In an interview shortly after her filibuster in June, CBS News’s Charlie Rose highlighted Davis’s history.
“You’ve met tough things before in your life as single mother, one who went form community college, to TCU to Harvard Law School and back to practice law, so this seems to be another challenge for you,” Rose said.
Davis was the “Sunday Spotlight” for ABC’s This Week after the filibuster and was interviewed by Jeff Zeleny in the dinner theater where Davis once watiressed. Even conservative columnist Peggy Noonan conceded during the panel that part of her thinks Davis is “so spirited, she has such energy and she seems to have such commitment.”
Allahpundit’s piece from this morning is fairly representative of what conservatives are saying:
ABC may end up interviewing Cruz but rest assured that they won’t play pattycake with himwith their questions when they do. Compare that last link, in fact, to this sneering WaPo piece of the view from the Senate gallery of Cruz’s filibuster as it got going. (Some media outlets chose instead to ignore Cruz’s filibuster entirely on the front page. One of them, per HA contributor Karl, was WaPo, which has otherwise covered the prospect of a Cruz filibuster at length.) Here’s the only wrinkle: Did Davis get the media version of a ticker-tape parade because she championed *a* left-wing issue or *the* left-wing issue? Bernie Sanders staged a futile filibuster of his own a few years ago that made liberals euphoric for a few hours, but that faded away so quickly that I’d forgotten about it until someone on Twitter mentioned it this morning. If she had filibustered for 12 hours in support of, say, higher spending for some pet liberal project, would “Wendy for Governor” be a thing among Democrats in Texas? It would have gotten some coverage, I think, despite her having a comparatively lower profile as a state senator, because the media wouldn’t be able to resist the sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves novelty of a woman politician staging a talking filibuster for hours when the men in her party wouldn’t. But that too, I think, would have been a blip. Those pink sneakers don’t achieve totemic status without her choosing an issue that’s absolutely core to her party’s national identity. She and Cruz have that in common, in fact. He’s making his bones by drawing a line at stopping ObamaCare. She made hers drawing a line at stopping laws that would reduce late-term abortions. Naturally, she’s a hero.
No doubt, the fact that Davis’s filibuster came over a hot button social issue was part of the reason that her actions received a lot more media attention than Cruz’s has so far. However, I think there’s a more fundamental reason. For good or all, Davis actually managed to delay action on the legislation she was rising against. Because of her 13 hour speech, the Texas State Senate was unable to take a final vote on the late term abortion bill she was opposing before the Special Session that Governor Perry had called expired at midnight that day. It was, of course, only a temporary victory because Perry quickly called a second session that passed the bill quickly and, indeed, Davis herself didn’t even bother to filibuster the bill a second time because she would not have been able to stop the bill or even delay it significantly. By contrast, nothing that Cruz did over the 21 hours, 19 minutes of the time he held the Senate floor didn’t delay a thing and, indeed, is something that had been negotiated in advance between Cruz and Reid. In terms of newsworthy-ness, then, Davis’s filibuster was arguably far more significant than Cruz’s.
Another difference between the Cruz and Davis filibusters is that Davis was far more limited in what she could do to maintain her filibuster than Cruz was. Under the rules of the Texas Senate, a filibuster must be directly related to the bill before the body. If the person holding the floor deviates from the subject, then the party can object and attempt to bring the filibuster to an end. Indeed, several efforts to do just that were made during the course of Davis’s filibuster by Republican leadership. Even if it were being treated under the U.S. Senate rules as a filibuster, Cruz’s efforts had no such restrictions. Hence, he was able to opine on nearly any topic he wished as long as held the floor. Indeed, during the course of the speech, Cruz read from “Green Eggs And Ham,” “Atlas Shrugged,” and history books about the drafting of the Declaration Of Independence in addition to reading tweets from various people following the speech on Twitter. He was also able to “Yield for a question” from other Senators, something which at least gives the Senator filibustering a chance to rest there voice, if not their legs. Physical issues notwithstanding, that makes continuing on for 21 hours a lot easier than if one was forced to stick to the topic at hand.
One other point to keep in mind is that there was plenty of other news unfolding yesterday other than Senator Cruz’s speech. President Obama gave a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, as did the new President of Iran. And, President Obama and President Clinton appeared together at the Clinton Global Initiatives annual meeting to discuss health care reform. Indeed, Wolf Blitzer and other primary cable news anchors were all in New York yesterday, not Washington.
So, there’s a good case to be made that there were significant differences between the Cruz and Davis filibusters that explain some of the differing news coverage. While I have no doubt that the fact that she was speaking out for the pro-choice side of a controversial topic no doubt played a role in the coverage she got from places like MSNBC, it seems clear to me that there are real differences between what Wendy Davis did and what Ted Cruz did to make reflexive cries of “media bias” seem just a little bit hollow.
If Cruz did not actually conduct a filibuster, I don’t think it’s appropriate to refer to it as a filibuster.
Since one was a filibuster and one was not, it makes sense for the media to treat them differently.
Wow, this is great for conservatives, it’s yet another opportunity for them to feel victimized, not that they need more opportunities and reasons to be angry. It’s a victory all the way around for the perpetually resentful and outraged conservative movement – Cruz “filibusters” for 21 hours, the media “ignores” it, or characterizes it in an “unfavorable” manner. This stuff is always good for fundraising.
Cruz is one thing Davis is not – genuinely unlikable. That may also play a part.
How convenient to forget the positive press Rand Paul got on his filibuster. But you know, that does not fit in the ‘MEDIA BIAS!!11!!!’ narrative so we will just forget it.
What has happened to the Tea Party? They were suppose to be about getting things done, a revolt against the party repubs who just talked about being conservative while voting for biz as usual. Now the Tea Party is all about countless symbolic votes against ObamaCare and fake filibusters.
The Tea Party was never about getting things done. It was a vehicle for old white people to express their panic at discovering they’ve lost control. It was never about anything but raw emotion coupled with willful ignorance.
I don’t pay attention to the news outlets that praised Wendy Davis, so I can’t make any comparison. I think one difference is the perception that Cruz’s activity may have endangered government funding. That makes it more “real”, especially to the DC news crowd. I also think that there’s something weird about the left’s reaction to Cruz. I’ve talked about it before when it’s shown up on this site. I swear, Mike Lee could shoot a cop and people would spread angry rumors about Ted Cruz jaywalking.
I was half way through writing a comment at Politico on Beyers’ piece when my day job intruded. Thank you, Doug, for reminding me and for your even handed treatment. In his piece Beyers actually touches on most of the reasons, many of them completely valid, why Davis got more favorable coverage. Then he ignores his own stuff and concludes that yes indeedy, it’s bias.
At the risk of being downvoted, I’ll mention the elephant in the room. Davis is an attractive woman, while Cruz bears an unfortunate, and oft remarked, physical resemblance to Joe McCarthy.
And let’s not ignore the larger narrative. I often refer to the Main Stream Press as the Establishment Press. I think it more accurately reflects their real biases. Cruz’s fight right now is as much against establishment GOPs as Obama. The press is taking the side of the establishment. So in this case it’s not Democratic bias, it’s establishment Republican bias against TP Republicans.
Oh, it’s not just a physical resemblance….
So OTB is now comparing legitmate filibusters to specious political grand-standing.
OK. Guess there’s a serious Cruz man-crush going on here.
Anyway…if even Republicans think Cruz is a total a$$-wipe…then it cannot be written off as liberal bias.
By the way…Obamacare premiums are cheaper than predicted.
These are real numbers put out by real companies with skin in the game.
Not commenters from the fever-swamp.
So much for the inevitable health-care apocalypse.
This Cruz/Davis meme cropped up so fast and spread so quickly you’d think someone was passing around talking points. Just saying.
The story that’s more important is the link to the article where this outgassing was rearranged with Harry Reid.
Will also agree with the others her that cute females get more media attention than males.
@Pinky: Because Cruz takes the public lead on these dumb endeavors. Lee does not. Similarly, people pay more attention to what John Boehner says rather than Mike Coffman.
@C. Clavin: I think it’s something along the lines of the officer assessment: “His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity.”
By the way, Limbaugh is now going after Fox for not being pro-Cruz enough. Isn’t it wonderful when the other side turns into the proverbial firing circle?
True, but to be honest, many in the media were sympathetic to Rand Paul’s cause that day, even if they are generally in disagreement with the man.
Byers and his ilk are confused because they’re trying to comprehend something they have no experience with – a news narrative based on facts & reporting. Josh Marshall didn’t just “call” Ted Cruz an arrogant ass – he contacted numerous people who _knew_ Cruz – from as far back as his undergrad days (including Marshall himself) – and to a one, they all declared Cruz is an ass & always has been.
Davis’ filibuster was fundamentally different from Cruz’ grandstanding – Davis was actually trying to change something, while even Cruz admitted his effort was purely for show. Davis was opposed & abused by the classless thugs running the Texas statehouse – Harry Reid cooperated with Cruz to let him have all the air time he wanted for his one-man political commercial.
The two events were markedly different on pretty much _every_ level, so it’s only logical that they were reported & portrayed differently. But logic has nothing to do with some people…
The fact that Wendy Davis was elevated to national prominence for filibustering a bill that has absolutely no implications outside of Texas, and the majority of Texans support is, in itself, evidence of political bias.
Can you imagine if Wendy Davis had been a pro-life state senator filibustering a bill to increase funding for Planned Parenthood? Does anyone honestly believe she would have been treated the same way by the media?
Yeah, this is the first time ever that a blog has picked up a story from Politico.
Many of the people making this complaint are in the same boat….
Can you provide a link that supports your claim that Davis is not pro-life…that she is in fact against life?
Davis might have caused fishes and loaves to fall on her colleagues but there’d still be dopes out there kvetching about his (Cruz’s) awful reception (roughing up the refs)
Cruz should have gone with slippers and paisley.
So close. It would have been a sane post, without that one line.
(You are correct that the whole “shut down government” is a big part of the difference.)
@James Pearce: I doubt that’s true. Conservatives who talk about media bias typically watch a disturbing amount of coverage. And do you think that they’re wrong in saying that Davis got favorable coverage and Cruz hasn’t? Analysis of the reasons why aside, do you think that they’re wrong?
@john personna: Thanks for the concession. But seriously, keep your eyes open for disproportionate anti-Cruz reactions, and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll find.
Would you prefer it if I described her as pro-abortion?
No. You should describe her accurately…pro-choice…and yourself as anti-choice.
I know Republican positions fall apart when subjected to facts.
Maybe that should tell you something?
Exactly what “choice” are you in favor of?
It’s so darned unfair that anyone who has worked as hard as Cruz has to draw attention to himself should get anything other than favorable reviews for his actions.
Why it’s unfair, I’m not sure, but apparently it is…
Byers talking about bias? That’s a laugh. Of course, most of his links are to opinion pieces, and as noted above, he ignores the coverage of Rand Paul’s filibuster. Hack.
And do you think that they’re wrong in saying that Davis got favorable coverage and Cruz hasn’t? Analysis of the reasons why aside, do you think that they’re wrong?
Yes, they’re wrong
A) comparing unlike things.
B) mistaking opinion writing for reporting
C) stating facts (e.g. this was not a filibuster) is not an example of bias
I personally think Mike Lee is pretty odious. But I think that the attention to Cruz that you note is caused by the following facots:
1. Mike Lee, in my experience, doesn’t do a lot of “mainstream” press interviews. He constantly shows up on the Fox/CMC circuit. So he has less exposure in the mainstream press.
2. Cruz tends to “drop bigger bombs” rhetorically (see half the crazy crap he says), and is the one to actually put himself forward — so being in the spotlight more by choice, he receives more attention. While Lee also has said some crazy things, they are actually usually no where near as crazy as the soundbite Cruz gives.
3. Cruz has been marketed as (including to some degree self-marketed as) the future face of the Republican party – one of the even Younger Guns. He’s even seen as having presidential asperations in 2016. Mike Lee, again, not so much.
4. Cruz is MUCH MUCH more charismatic than Lee.
As the phrase goes, soweth the wind…
The choice not to have your superstitions and myths imposed on me.
@andrew e.: This Cruz/Davis meme cropped up so fast and spread so quickly you’d think someone was passing around talking points. Just saying.
My money says that JournoList (or whatever they’re calling it now) picked up on it and started coordinating their pooh-poohing of it.
If I understand your position correctly, what Cruz did was stupid and shallow and dangerous, but we shouldn’t talk about it too much, because that’s mean.
To the contrary, conservatives who talk about media bias demand media bias. They get really uncomfortable when their biases are challenged and really upset when they are not reflected back to them.
That makes it very easy for me to dismiss such concerns.
Sounds like you’re not so disturbed by media bias as you are in thrall to it.
(Perhaps Pinky is offering what we could call Victimization Lite.)
@C. Clavin: Sane people often try to collect the facts before forming an opinion. So yes, analysis of the facts aside, I think it’s reasonable to look at the facts first.
@john personna: You characterize my opinion that way based on what, exactly?
I can think of two other key differences:
1) Perhaps because state politics don’t get quite the same coverage as national politics, Davis’s filibuster seemed like something fresher and more spontaneous than Cruz’s talkathon. As far as national media are concerned, Ted Cruz’s speech was the latest permutation in his months-long crusade against Obamacare. Meanwhile, Davis’s speech, even if it was completely scripted. seemed to come from out of the blue. That gave it a little more zing when national media moved in to cover it.
2) There’s some stage-setting at play here, too. A politician’s peers help set the tone for media coverage. When Davis spoke, her fellow Democrats were right there to say nice things about her and cheer her on. Meanwhile, as Cruz spoke, some establishment Republicans took time out of their schedules to put a few knives in his back. (See, e.g., Rep. Peter King). I think those attitudes likely affected the tenor of media coverage.
Get out of here. Reality is not welcome.
You are claiming media bias, but by your own admission, you don’t pay attention to the media outlets you claim are biased.
That leads us to suspect you are simply parroting claims of media bias made by media outlets that tell you things you like to hear.
You like to present yourself as one of the serious people in the room. Actually you know – being serous – would help you with that.
I see quite a lot… and the overwhelming majority of it comes directly from other Republicans. Democrat reactions appear to be largely bemused pity. How does that fit in with your whole “media bias” worldview?
When you acknowledge it, come back and we’ll talk.
Cruz votes for Cloture…on the bill he spent all night Phoney-Philibustering.
Then he tells one of the party leaders…Limbaugh…that some Senators think their constituents are “gullible rubes”.
Some political party…that GOP…
Wow. Now I remember why I haven’t been to OTB in months.
This is the hot topic? Butthurt over perceived differences in media coverage of two speeches?
Newsflash: the rates are in, and the thing that will destroy America is actually a huge flashing signpost that markets work. If conservatives weren’t so obsessed with butthurt over that Obama guy/democrats wining something, sometimes, they’d notice that occasionally, free market reforms work.
This should be a huge win for market liberalizers. But the Obama derangement has ruined any chance to take credit for injecting market mechanisms into a previously monopolistic and stilted insurance market.
Congrats on wasting even more time on Cruz and Betlway boohoo.
What’s so weird about a negative reaction to Cruz that is based upon his actual arrogance and somewhat socially malevolent personality? Seems to me to be a rational and logical reaction.
I was giving you some credit for what you wrote earlier:
If you don’t actually understand what “endangering government funding” means, and really do think it only matters to “the DC news crowd” then I take it all back.
If that’s the case, you don’t know what you are talking a bout.
Republicans were quick to complain that the press didn’t sufficiently cover Ted Cruz’s speech — specifically claiming that the Wendy Davis filibuster in Texas received more and more favorable coverage.
The only problem? As far as more coverage is concerned, it simply wasn’t true, as both Philip Bump and Jason Linkins document in detail. Turns out it wasn’t close; whether it was live coverage on the cable news networks or newspaper coverage, Cruz was treated as a major story while Davis, well, wasn’t.…..
But it doesn’t help him that the accusations about his faux-libuster were largely correct. If the press was trying to correctly convey what he was up to, that meant that, yes, Cruz would look bad. That’s not media bias; that’s reporting.
Go read everything in between.
@Pinky: @Pinky: Also – Mike who?
Davis filibustered. Cruz didn’t.
When given the opportunity to cast a vote on the bill she opposed Davis voted against it. Cruz voted for the bill he opposed.
Other than those two items the situations are identical.
I wonder how many of the media went after Cruz because the Republicans themselves gave them cover. If there hadn’t been Republicans piling it on would they have been so critical?
@RaflW: That’s exactly correct. The Republicans are not attacking the ACA they are attacking Obama.
So how far off topic can we go here? Let’s see…
The free choice of a pregnant woman in the United States to have a safe and legal abortion. Something that is her choice to make and absolutely none of your business.
See, the wingnut press and blogs went nuts hating on Wendy Davis, and since they live in a bubble, they just assumed that there was widespread coverage of her, that it was biased (of course), and that Cruz has been ignored or subject to negatively biased press coverage. It doesn’t matter that the facts don’t support any of this. Reality is the enemy of the wingnut.
The regular media actually didn’t cover the Davis filibuster at all. It was mainly a social media phenomenon, where a Reddit submission to the livestream hit the top of the front page, and over 100,000 concurrently watched online. The next day the media picked it up because of the massive social media interest, the fact it was an actual filibuster, and the dramatic conclusion where she and the overflowing gallery actually succeed in derailing the final legislative session. In Cruz’s case he’s received a tremendous amount of media coverage throughout his stunt, even though he’s not actually filibustering, just giving a speech he scheduled with Harry Reid with no real purpose besides raising money and extremist cred.
What a funny line from the National Review:
The election of 2012? Right under the rug.
It’s probably because Cruz is a bit of a joke.
He didn’t filibuster. He didn’t even slow anything down. He just stood there. He “filibustered” the very bill that he encouraged the House to pass. He’s eminently mockable.
He’s just not someone you should take seriously.
@Ernieyeball: Can we really get off this entire topic. I’ve been waiting to get some words on foreign policy, especially with respect to Obama’s speech and potential interactions with Iran. You know, something more important?
Scott…you won’t be reading anything about potential Obama successes here.
More important than what?
It was a show, folks. When you’ve been thoroughly emasculated, any publicity is good publicity.
In all that talk did Cruz present his replacement plan or his health insurance idea?
@Jc: Of course not. Remember, all this was, was Cruz striking pompous poses to fleece the rubes.
@Pinky: “. I also think that there’s something weird about the left’s reaction to Cruz.”
Yeah, it’s really bizarre that liberals don’t like a man who calls them Nazis. Really bafflling.
Perhaps the largest difference*, Wendy Davis didn’t bully members of her own party in the Texas House to pass the bill she filibustered.
* I am rather surprised to be the second to mention it 65 comments in
at the end of the day they were both futile and they knew it ahead of time. a del female in pink sneakers is much more msm friendly than ted cruz. wendy davis has little chance of being a governor in Texas, she might be able to make it to congress- but she’ll need lot’s of outside money as well as moving to a favorable district.
if cruz was a democrat he would be an HISPANIC, and he would get much better press.
@C. Clavin: He didn’t vote for cloture. He voted for a motion to proceed. Just another one of the esoteric rules of the Senate that seems to confuse everyone.
The cloture vote won’t take place until either Friday or Saturday. Something tells me that Cruz will be a nay vote.
Since Clavin decided to deflect the question with pointless sophistry instead of answering it, allow me:
No, probably not. Not because of media bias, but, as has been pointed out, the media covered the story after it achieved a large amount of social media attention. Without that, the story would have been entirely ignored by national media.
Of course, it’s possible the same social media users would have flagged the livestream of the pro-life state senator’s filibuster, but I imagine the tone would’ve been different if only because those users trend socially liberal to begin with.
If by “the left” you mean “everyone outside the crazy 27% and their enablers.” Across the spectrum, I see most sane people agreeing that Cruz is a grandstanding jackass.
Democrats don’t like assholes. Even hispanic assholes. Witness George Zimmermann.
This is hilarious. Cruz wastes almost a day worth of time on the senate floor for NOTHING. And he is still a hero to the ignorant.
They deserve to be fleeced.
ps. Nazis love Green Eggs and Ham.
Yeah, and If Sarah Palin was thoughtful she wouldn’t have been on the GOP ticket in 2008.
@al-Ameda: is anyone as polarizing as Palin ? Just
metioning her name raises hairs on liberals!
She’s the best – one the few GOP politicians who is a source of motivation for grass roots Democrats. She’s also the best source of material for comedians and comedy writers going on right now.
The increasingly polarized Washington, D.C. political climate lends itself easily to the scrutiny of all news outlets for evidence of media bias. However, as you point out so succinctly in this post, other considerations such as news value and the validity of the event usually play a much bigger role than politics in the way journalists portray elected officials. In the case of Texas Sen. Wendy Davis and Sen. Ted Cruz, their stories have fundamentally different angles that alter the way that the news media covers them. When Cruz began speaking on the Senate floor, he knew he could not hold off the implementation of the Affordable Care Act indefinitely. He had already approached Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to ask for the time to speak his mind, and knew it would only last until Wednesday afternoon at the latest. When Davis began speaking on the Texas Senate floor, however, she had a concrete goal in mind: to run out the clock on the legislative session and prevent a bill from passing. The American people and the media saw the pure simplicity of Davis’ goal and latched onto it. Davis’ use of a filibuster actually democratically advanced her goal, while Cruz’s nearly daylong speech only served his own desire to speak his mind. Cruz even acknowledged his goal in the first few minutes of the speech, saying “I intend to speak in opposition to ObamaCare, I intend to speak in support of defunding ObamaCare, until I am no longer able to stand.” From the perspective of the media, Davis’ filibuster was inherently more attractive because it drew on the ideals of democracy and morality, and came organically out of her political convictions. By contrast, Cruz’s filibuster was negotiated ahead of time and contributed only to his own satisfaction. In terms of news judgment, Davis’ story was more enjoyable for journalists to write and therefore gained a more positive frame.
Though not every unflattering story of a politician comes from a political bias, I maintain that we cannot always automatically rule it out. As you say in your piece, the “reflexive cries of “media bias” seem just a little bit hollow” when used as a way for pundits to tear down an article they dislike. In other cases, however, media bias can have a real impact on the framing of a story. Davis, for instance, became a media darling, garnering coverage like the positively glowing Vogue profile glamorizing everything from her upbringing to entrance into politics. On the other hand, few national newspapers even mentioned Cruz on their front pages on the day of his long speech on the Senate floor, but several called out his actions on their editorial pages as “futile” and the equivalent of a tired army general failing to marshal his troops. This wide discrepancy in coverage cannot stem from the differences in the stories alone. Whether consciously or not, media outlets viewed Davis in an inherently positive light, and Cruz in a negative one. The general public must not forget that journalists hold political views just like any other citizens, and those views may occasionally seep through in their writing.