"I don't read the New York Times, to be honest with you," Jeb Bush told Fox News Radio’s "Kilmeade & Friends" on Thursday.
Insisting that you don't read the New York Times has become standard stump fare for Republicans over the past decade or so. Bush now joins a slew of other non-Times readers, including:
* Tom DeLay
* Jesse Helms
* Antonin Scalia
The best "don't read the Times" quote, though, comes from anti-tax advocate Stephen Moore. ''I don't eat sushi,'' Moore said in a interview with the Times in 2004. ''I don't drive a Volvo. I don't read the Times -- except for the Political Points column, of course. I don't drink latte. I do have my navel pierced, though.''
It's easy to see why this particular rhetorical turn is favored among Republicans and conservatives: Their base loathes the Times. Check out this chart from a 2014 Pew study of media consumption habits among partisans:
Or this one, from that same study:
The Times functions as a stand-in for everything -- or at least many things -- conservatives dislike: liberalism, the arrogance of big cities, intellectual elitism and out-of-touch-ness. (The Times hatred is a sort of metonymy; the Times functions as a stand-in for all mainstream media, which conservatives, not to put too fine a point on it, detest.)
So, when you are Jeb Bush (or Chris Christie) and need to throw a little red meat to the party base to convince them you are actually conservative, the Times is a convenient New York strip steak to toss. (ZING!)
But let's just be normal people for a minute, shall we? There is a roughly zero percent chance that Jeb Bush or Chris Christie -- or any of the other national politicians who say they don't read the Times -- actually don't read the Times. Why? Because whatever the base -- or even these politicians themselves -- might think of the Times' ideological positioning (and, to be frank, I would guess the conflation of the editorial board and the newsroom is responsible for most of the "liberal" attack), the organization remains an absolutely essential read for anyone who cares about or follows politics. The Times, thanks to its near-worldwide name identification, national distribution and the raw number of eyeballs checking it out on the Web, is a central part of the political conversation. Always. Full stop. (I would argue that The Post is the same -- and, as such, is subject to the same "you all are a bunch of liberals" treatment.)
I understand why Republican pols keep saying they don't read the Times. But I wish they'd stop since, you know, it's not true.