As Conservatives Gather, Anger at the News Media Runs Deep

OXON HILL, Md. — It did not seem like a coincidence that the very first panel of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference took direct aim at the state of journalism in the United States.

The opening session on Thursday, “An Affair to Remember: How the Far Left and the Mainstream Media Got in Bed Together,” began with a YouTube-style mash-up of the year’s biggest media blunders. The audience jeered Joy Behar of “The View” and Jim Acosta of CNN; it whooped at a clip of President Trump thundering at Mr. Acosta, “You are fake news.”

This annual gathering is usually a moment to hammer out what divides the fractious conservative movement. What it has revealed so far is what unites it: contempt for “#fakenews” and the journalists that the former Breitbart News writer Ben Shapiro memorably described as “advocates of leftism, masquerading as objective truth-tellers.”

Mr. Shapiro, 34, a provocateur with a growing following among millennial conservatives, brought the crowd to its feet when he declared, “The media are lying about you, they are lying about me.” Some attendees turned toward the reporters gathered in the back of a hotel ballroom here and gave them a taunting thumbs down.

But Mr. Shapiro was far from the most prominent speaker whose fiery media criticism delighted the conservative faithful.

Vice President Mike Pence accused journalists of “fawning” over the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Her sphinx-like appearance beside Mr. Pence at the Winter Olympics in South Korea this month drew wide attention.

Some commentators had criticized Mr. Pence for remaining seated when the unified Korean Olympic team marched in the opening ceremony, a snub that they called disrespectful to American allies in South Korea.

“For all those in the media who think I should have stood and cheered with the North Koreans, I say the United States of America doesn’t stand with murderous dictatorships; we stand up to murderous dictatorships,” Mr. Pence said, his words nearly drowned out by applause and cheers.

Perhaps the most fervent anti-media broadsides came from Dana Loesch, the spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, who used her remarks to accuse news organizations of rooting for gun massacres.

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” Ms. Loesch said, eliciting nods and approving shouts. Addressing the reporters in the room, she said, “You guys love it. I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

The incendiary dig was not much of a surprise at a conference that attracts a wide spectrum of right-wing groups and news outlets, many of which have honed the provocation of liberals into a fine, and sometimes profitable, art.

Still, some of Ms. Loesch’s other remarks — reiterating the N.R.A.’s arguments for defending the Second Amendment and calling for more guns in schools — drew a more tepid reaction from the audience, perhaps a sign of how the national outcry after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., has become a backdrop for this week’s gathering.

It was her media attacks that played best, like when she said that she needed a security detail to leave the televised CNN town hall with gun violence survivors where she spoke on Wednesday night.

“There were people rushing the stage and screaming, ‘Burn her,’” Ms. Loesch said.

A CNN spokesman said on Thursday that the network’s security personnel accompanied all the town hall speakers, including Ms. Loesch, from the stage, and that Ms. Loesch also had her own private security. The spokesman did not say whether she had been threatened.

After Ms. Loesch’s remarks on Thursday, some journalists chafed at the idea that they were exploiting the deaths of children.

“The point of all of this is to say that people in the media aren’t real human beings with souls and families and feelings, which is disgusting,” Elise Foley, a reporter at HuffPost, wrote on Twitter.

The scorn toward journalists here reflected genuine concern from some attendees that mainstream news outlets willfully misunderstand conservatives. Several speakers expressed a sense of victimhood, that their beliefs were portrayed by reporters as intolerant or tantamount to bigotry.

And there were reminders that the media-as-punching-bag trope among conservatives is a tactic that shows few signs of going away.

“They think it’s just because President Trump is being mean to the media and we’re all following Trump,” Mr. Shapiro said from the stage, referring to his followers’ disdain toward the press.

“No,” he added, pausing before the punch line. “We didn’t like you guys before.”

Content originally published on by MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM