The Media vs. Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the third GOP presidential primary debate last Wednesday accused the network hosting the event, CNBC, as having a liberal bias. In this charged comment directed toward the mainstream media establishment he requested future debates should instead be the responsibility of news networks who would actually vote in a Republican primary. In two articles, one from Buzzfeed News and the other from the Chicago Tribune Cruz’s accusations are addressed.

In the Buzzfeed News article by Andrew Kaczynski “Cruz: No More Debates Hosted By People Who Would Never Vote In a Republican Primary” quotes from Cruz make up the majority of his piece. By quoting Cruz’s comments in the CNBC debate, and later an interview with Cruz from the Heidi Harris Show, the article moves in a direction that is developed through Cruz’s words rather than from Kaczynski’s. This game frame technique is interjected with the occasional one-liner from Kaczynski to give the story an arc, a developmental reminder of the timeline of Cruz’s comments during and after the debate.

Kaczynski’s first one-liner calls attention to Cruz’s argument, “Cruz noted it wasn’t a good idea to let those in the mainstream media host debates.” Direct quotes from Cruz then carry the piece in a method which motivates the article. Kaczynski also chooses to add in a quotes Cruz said post-debate on the Heidi Harris Show, “They attack Ben Carson, a world renowned neurosurgeon, and say, ‘you can’t do math.’” The context of Cruz’s comments then parallel a question CNBC debate moderator Becky Quick asked about Carson’s tax plan which would bring in trillions of dollars less in government revenue, “I’ve had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this.” The game frame bias remains throughout this article and works for the large volume of direct quotes which help Kaczynski resolve the statements Cruz said during and after the debate.

In the Chicago Tribune article by Rex Huppke, “Ted Cruz Declares War on ‘Liberal Media’– So I Declare War on Ted Cruz,” the game frame is used to emphasize a conflict between Cruz and the mainstream media. Unlike the Buzzfeed News article, Huppke’s article is an op-ed piece but the framing remains surprisingly similar. Huppke summarizes the debate event last Wednesday as an audacious attack on media, one which has no basis or truth in the reality. Like the Buzzfeed News article, Cruz’s comments are framed as miscalculating and inaccurate.

Huppke, like Kaczynski, also makes a strategic move by using direct quotes from Cruz in order to frame a larger conflict. The first quote from Cruz, “the questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media” and then Cruz’s Democratic debate comparison, “where every thought and question from the media was, ‘which of you is more handsome and why?’” invites argumentation. Cruz’s handsome comment acts as the introduction to the structure of Huppke’s argument. The term “handsome” Cruz may have used sarcastically or literally, but nonetheless it remains a loaded statement Huppke can disprove.  

Huppke deconstructs the “handsome” question Cruz claimed to have occurred in the Democratic debate by purposefully utilizing traditional journalistic strategies such as fact checking and cross-referencing to systematically falsify Cruz’s accusations. In a final, charged comment Huppke writes a formal declaration of war against Cruz where he laments that journalists will aim at his policies using “pens that can be waved in a menacing manner; paper-cut inducing notepads; barrels of ink; and limitless Internet space.”

Although the Buzzfeed News article is not an op-ed piece each contain game framing. Kaczynski captures the extent to which quotes can be framed as opinion by strategically choosing quotes which are either informative, from the debate, or dramatic, from the Heidi Harris Show. The major use of quotes behave as a subliminal, bias frame. Buzzfeed News is typically considered a liberal, non-traditional news source and by writing an article largely based on direct quotes this becomes a persuasive method the reader can use to navigate Cruz’s comments.

In the case of Huppkes’ op-ed the article, the argument directs the reader in a way which demands rather than unconsciously persuades. Without having known about Cruz’s comments previously the declaration of media war by Huppke completely falsifies Cruz’s accusations. The role each article play in the context of Cruz’s comments during and after the debate positions the media to respond. The media must explain the falsities of Cruz’s accusations about mainstream media without incriminating themselves in the bias Cruz describes. Acting as the voice for the mainstream media Huppke declares justice and Kaczynski turns the responsibility back on Cruz to respond.

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The Media vs. Ted Cruz

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