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Opinion Frank Luntz rips Media Matters after conflict-of-interest accusation

American political consultant, pollster, and Republican Party strategist Frank Luntz talks with Washington Post reporter Melinda Henneberger at the 2012 Republican National Convention. (Photo by Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

The advantage of inviting Frank Luntz as a guest on your morning news show: He’s a high-flying, super-connected messagemeister with great connections and clients in the political world.

The disadvantage of inviting Frank Luntz as a guest on your morning news show: He’s a high-flying, super-connected messagemeister with great connections and clients in the political world.

Both sides of the Luntz dilemma played out today in a segment on the excellent news program “CBS This Morning.” Co-hosts Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell wanted to go deep and insidery on the Republican leadership crisis in the House of Representatives, a story that took a major twist yesterday with the announcement by Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy that he would abandon his candidacy to succeed Ohio Rep. John Boehner.

What better person to comment on all this than Luntz? “Republican strategist and CBS contributor Frank Luntz has been friends with McCarthy for 20 years. He has advised the majority leader informally and has been a political sounding board for him,” said Rose in introducing the political svengali. “House Republicans are not functioning this morning and they haven’t functioned for some time because there’s a segment there that simply believes that it is better to blow up the process than it is to fix it. It is better to pull people apart than to find some way to collaborate,” said Luntz of the situation on Capitol Hill.

Very good, clear-headed commentary.

The discussion drifted toward the other candidates — Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida — who could possibly step up and serve as speaker. No good, said Luntz: “This is not a debating society or the Kiwanis club; this is the speaker of the House of Representative of the United States of America. You don’t want a new face, you want someone who knows the rules, you want someone who knows procedure, you want someone who knows what regular order actually is.”

He continued, “I don’t see any candidate other than Paul Ryan who has the capability of doing it….If Paul Ryan says no, god help us.”

Today we rang up Luntz for comment about a report that his favorable comments about Ryan conflict with his business history. Ryan’s 2012 and 2014 congressional campaigns, FEC records show, paid Luntz Global (motto: “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear”) more than $100,000 in recent years — a fact that wasn’t disclosed in the segment. Upshot: “CBS This Morning” warned viewers about Luntz’s association with McCarthy, but not the one with Ryan; what did we say about “super-connected”?

We told Luntz of the report, and he asked who’d written it. “Media Matters,” replied the Erik Wemple Blog.

“They put me on to talk about Kevin McCarthy,” said Luntz, who noted, accurately, that the segment began with a disclosure about his relationship with McCarthy. As the conversation moved along, Luntz swiveled his artillery: “If you actually follow what Media Matters says, then I feel sorry for you…I’m not going to sit there and everything I say, ‘Oh, by the way, 18 years ago, I had dinner with that person….’ I can’t believe you don’t have better things to do,” he ripped the Erik Wemple Blog for taking seriously a report from Media Matters. “They are a professional bitch organization of the left….All they do is bitch…They hire interns to watch TV every day. It’s an embarrassment.”

As for CBS News, said Luntz, the network “did its job — they gave the whole disclosure, so there’s nothing to criticize them over.”

There’s something to that last comment. Maintaining Luntz as a contributor pretty well aligns CBS News with competing organizations that routinely hire former politicians and aides to provide commentary and analysis on air, even though their loyalties and sources of income stunt their objectivity. As for those conflicts of interest, we’ve been writing about them for some time and have found that people generally don’t care about them.