During John Boehner's weekly press conference on Thursday, MSNBC's Luke Russert took advantage of the recent raucous speaker election to praise the Ohio Republican as “one of the most conservative members” of the House of Representatives “during the last 20 years.”
“I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as ‘the establishment,'” the newly re-elected speaker stated. “Now, I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we have ever had.”
Boehner then went on to list what he considered his conservative credentials:
Who was the guy against government earmarks? Me. Who was the guy who believes in regular order? Me. Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process from both sides of the aisle? Me.
I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. I’m going to do my best to show all of our members, Democrats and Republicans -- and those members who voted against me -- that I’m up to the job I was given.
The exchange began when Russert asked Boehner to explain “a lot of opposition from people like Sean Hannity,” the host of his eponymous hour-long weeknight program on the Fox News Channel. “Why is there such fervent conservative opposition to your speakership?”
“I've given some thought to this, as you might imagine,” the speaker said as the reporters in the room laughed. “The American people are very frustrated. They're frustrated in a struggling economy, they're frustrated that they don't think Washington is listening, and they want action.”
“I talk to Americans every day, talk to my constituents every day, and this frustration is there,” he continued. “And they need to take it out on somebody. They take it out on the president, they take it out to me, and it comes with the territory.”
“But you're one of the most conservative members of the last 20 years,” Russert stated incredulously. “Does that frustrate you?”
“During my years here when I voted, I had the eighth-most conservative voting record in the Congress,” the Republican official stated, “and it does pain me to be described as 'spineless' or 'a squish.'”
Meanwhile, Tony Lee of the Breitbart.com website was far less enthusiastic about the press conference, which allowed Boehner to “spew talking points defending his so-called conservatism.”
“At least Boehner didn’t claim he was 'severely conservative' like Mitt Romney did,” Lee noted.
Russert, the son of longtime Meet the Press host Tim Russert, is “an establishment and permanent political class favorite who is emblematic of a mainstream media that mistakenly believe every lawmaker with an 'R' next to their name is 'conservative,'” the Breitbart reporter added.
As NewsBusters reported on Tuesday evening, each of the major broadcast networks devoted time to covering the swearing in of the 114th Congress and the race for speaker that saw Boehner retain his post, but not without 25 conservatives voting in dissent against the incumbent Republican.
Overall, the networks lamented how the group presented “a thorny obstacle to Boehner's leadership” and, in turn, will force him to be “more confrontational with President Obama” instead of "working with the president on some issues, including tax reform and trade."
Nevertheless, Boehner easily won re-election over his opponents, including Republican Louis Gohmert, a Texan who said “It's time for a change” but only received three votes in the selection of the speaker.
While Republicans officially took control of both the House and the Senate on Tuesday, NBC, ABC and CBS all touted GOP difficulties. NBC's Today led the way, with correspondent Peter Alexander seizing on comments from the top Senate Republican: "Among incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's main goals for his party: Don't be scary."
Alexander went on to promote Republican divisions and controversy: "Their first tests: whether John Boehner can hold off Tea Party conservatives challenging his speakership" and "the controversy over Louisiana's Steve Scalise, the House's number three Republican, still defending his speech to a white supremacist group led by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke twelve years ago."
Of course, when the media learned that Scalise was speaking during a different event at a different time in the same building, the reporters' “feeding frenzy” came to an abrupt end.
How Boehner will perform during his renewed speakership is anybody's guess. Still, with a larger number of conservatives in the House, it might be wise for him to take their advice as the GOP prepares for the presidential election in 2016.