Sparks flew between Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow and Republican consultant Rick Wilson on CNN Friday evening during a discussion of Republican presidential contenders Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, with Wilson comparing Breitbart’s coverage of Trump to the Soviet propaganda outlet Pravda.
After Trump, the business and television personality leading the Republican field, finished a press conference, host Kate Bolduan–sitting in for Erin Burnett on CNN’s OutFront–sought comment from Wilson and Marlow, especially regarding Trump’s attacks on Bush, the former Governor of Florida.
The two men, before addressing each other, established a stark contrast with the other’s view. Wilson defended Bush on several questions and, unprompted, said: “I don’t work for Jeb Bush, and I’m not here to advocate specifically for him.” All the while, he threw a few bombs at Trump. “Every one of these pressers this guy does is a dumpster fire… most of the things that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth have almost no relationship to the truth under any circumstances. He just makes it up.” He wrapped up with a comparison of Trump’s talking point on forcefully taking Iraq’s oil to a “drunk dad at the local corner bar talking smack.”
While harsh, none of these insults quite matched the intensity of Wilson calling Trump “a giant, epic, douche canoe” on Don Lemon’s CNN program Monday.
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) August 11, 2015
Marlow, appearing in-studio, argued that Trump landed some “good lines” against Bush on the issues of big-money political donors, the Iraq war, and the Iran nuclear deal–all “point[s] of weakness with the grassroots.” He said of the Iraq issue, Bush is “extremely vulnerable,” because “I don’t even know what Jeb believes yet, and I follow this stuff for a living.”
Marlow concluded by mentioning that Trump will be formulating his immigration policy alongside Sen. Jeff Sessions. He said of grassroots conservatives who make up the lion’s share of Breitbart readership, “These people are simpatico with one man in Washington, and that is Jeff Sessions. They are doing a victory dance hearing Donald is teaming with him.”
After a break, CNN’s Gloria Borger joined the panel, and Wilson offered advice to Jeb Bush–that he is not being tough enough on Trump:
You do not benefit by trying to draft behind Donald Trump and hope that he collapses and his low-information supporters run into your arms. This is a guy who is increasingly leading a fraction of the conservative base into a very dangerous cul-de-sac. He is promising things that he can never deliver. And it is time for Jeb Bush and other folks to start posting up and really comparing and contrasting Donald Trump’s rhetoric with the reality.
The conversation then turned to Trump’s war of words with Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican presidential candidate who finds himself in the middle of the pack. “They’re trying to say, like Rand Paul, that Donald Trump is not a real conservative,” said Borger, “but it’s kinda like they’re punching Jell-O, because everything they do, it just doesn’t seem to work.”
Wilson responded that Trump’s compulsion to respond to Paul belies his weakness as a candidate: “He’s a guy who constantly punches down at people, and he’s a very thin-skinned, delicate little princess when it comes to anyone saying something bad about him. This is a guy who loses his mind every time.”
In his next statement, Marlow challenged Wilson and impugned him as part of the “consultant class” disconnected from the conservative grassroots:
You see the reason why Trump has so much more momentum is actually because of commentary like Rick’s, where we respectfully disagree. But Rick is from this consultant class, from the GOP establishment, and so much of the grassroots are not interested in what they have to say and the direction they’re leading us. Leading us towards Jeb, a guy with no energy, that doesn’t get the grassroots fired up. What gets the grassroots fired up is Trump staying on immigration, being media savvy, calling people out repeatedly–people are loving it. Whether or not you’re happy about that, that’s up to you, but people are loving it.
As Bolduan began asking a followup question, Wilson did not let the attack go unchallenged, leading to a contentious cross-talk, transcribed here:
WILSON: Alex, you guys sound like Pravda reporting the five-year plan for Stalin, okay? You guys have very much bought into the Trump [inaudible–sounds like “madness”] you can’t find a negative story about Donald Trump on your website unless it’s a full moon–
MARLOW: That’s absolutely not true. When he was on CNN, we were extremely critical of his interview with CNN, and my reporter Ben Shapiro wrote a front-page story assigned by me, put into the lead.
WILSON: This is a guy who you guys have fully embraced. And I get–I get–I get–Alex, I get that you guys–I get that you guys are all in on Trump–
MARLOW: That’s not true, Rick. You don’t follow my site enough. You just wanna fight with Trump people, and that’s why you’re getting rejected.
WILSON: I get that you guys are all in–I get that Alex I get that you guys are all in on Trump. Alex, I get it. I get that you guys are all in on Trump. I get it. I understand that–I understand that–
MARLOW: You keep saying that; you’re not listening to me. You just wanna yell. It’s not–it’s not like that.
WILSON: No Alex, I’m not yelling. I, I understand that you guys are all in on Trump. That’s fine. That’s a corporate decision you’ve made. I understand it. I get it.
MARLOW: Politico wrote we’re all in on Cruz. So what is it?
WILSON: I’m sure there’s a great fiduciary underpinning to that. But Alex, what is happening with you guys–and there’s some folks on the right–you’re covering this because it’s great for clicks, it’s great for energizing a certain demo. And I get it. I understand it. But let’s be honest here. You guys aren’t covering Donald Trump in a straight-up-the-middle, journalistic way. Half of it comes out like, seriously, looking like the Pravda reporting the five-year sorghum harvest in the Soviet Union. This is not a guy who is this perfect candidate who is this–
MARLOW: This is just name calling. It’s just name calling. We’re a grassroots conservative site; we freely admit it. So long as Trump says his number one position is he’s gonna build a border wall, he’s going to get a lot of support from grassroots–
WILSON: Which you know is a fiction, Alex. Which you know is a fiction.
MARLOW: I absolutely don’t know if it’s a fiction. He’ll, he’ll build his wall. He builds buildings; he’ll build his wall.
WILSON: Of course it’s a fiction.