The knives were out on ABC and NBC late Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in reaction to Ted Cruz’s speech not endorsing Donald Trump as their reactions varied from Cruz having “badly miscalculated” to suggesting that Cruz would be blamed in November if Trump doesn’t win the general election.
ABC turned immediately to political analyst and former Bush official Matthew Dowd to trash Cruz in the first of many instances throughout their coverage by opining that Cruz had taken the “anger..aimed at Hillary Clinton and he actually turned it to anger aimed at him” that amounted to “a big mistake for Ted Cruz’s career.”
World News Tonight anchor David Muir similarly chided Cruz for going from having “the hall in the palm of his hands” to “squandering incredible goodwill in this room” that he had amassed earlier in his speech.
Never turning down a chance to attack conservatives, ABC/NPR analyst Cokie Roberts remarked that “it was so blatantly obvious that he was promoting himself, and not the candidate of this party and that’s been his problem all along” as he’s been “so hated by so many people in the Republican Party.”
Providing one of the only pieces of analysis on ABC that didn’t trash Cruz was Republican campaign correspondent Tom Llamas, who made a professional wrestling analogy after highlighting some of the things Trump has done to insult Cruz and his family:
There used to be a professional wrestler. His name was Stone Cold Steve Austin, his move was the Stone Cold Stunner, Ted Cruz walked in here and he body slammed Donald Trump's convention. People are going to remember that whether they like it or not in 2020.
Dowd later returned to hammer Cruz as one of if not the person who will be blamed if the Republicans lose in November (before he compared Cruz’s feelings towards Trump to a wounded veteran feeling pain after losing a leg in war):
I think it was a total miscalculated risk on Ted Cruz's part and here’s why. If Donald Trump wins, Ted Cruz is persona non grata for the next four or eight years that Donald Trump is — if Donald Trump loses, then Ted Cruz is on the list of people that the party is going to blame and the voters are going to blame for the loss of it.
After vice presidential nominee Mike Pence concluded his speech, Dowd concluded that Pence “brought the party together” by being the person who “cleaned up the living room after Cruz kinda spilled the furniture over.”
Over on NBC, the assembled cast of characters were slightly more complimentary to Cruz in mentioning the recent events in Dallas and Louisiana, but NBC’s Today co-host Savannah Guthrie and NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt repeatedly declared that Trump walking into the hall near the end of Cruz’s speech stole the show away from Cruz.
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Former Bush and McCain/Palin official Nicolle Wallace had less than kind words for Cruz as she lamented that his otherwise “beautiful” speech was stymied by its conclusion that “no one” will remember.
She also added that New York Congressman Peter King’s assessment of Cruz on the convention floor as “disgraceful” “is something lots of people don't have the courage to say out loud but that's how people feel.”
Later in the coverage, Guthrie disagreed with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd’s belief that Cruz was free to speak at the RNC and do what he did:
[W]hat is he doing at this convention then? You cannot have it both ways. If you can't endorse, do what John Kasich did and hang around outside on the perimeter. I think Ted made a calculation that he could have it both ways, stand up here, have the adulation of those movement conservatives who still love him who think he's doing the honorable thing but he obviously badly miscalculated.