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Dick Armey: Angle and other tea party candidates should talk to the press

At a luncheon sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, I asked FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey about the trouble U.S. Senate candidates Rand Paul and Sharron Angle had gotten into by bungling interviews or by avoiding the press. Specifically, is it wise for tea party candidates to avoid non-Fox News interviews?

"I've had that dilemma," said Armey. "You get discouraged. I mean, I've been bushwhacked. What the heck? I've never been embarrassed about anything I've said or done, but I've been embarrassed by things I was alleged to have said and done. This is going to happen to a lot of people. But the fact of the matter is that you cannot have a functioning democracy without a free, fair, responsible press. Irrespective of the number of disappointments that you will have in the press, you must always be willing to take a chance on someone who says I'm from the press and I'm here to interview you, until you know for certain that this is one of the unreliable ones."

Armey blamed the trouble Rand Paul got into on his choice of venue -- specifically, on his acceptance of an interview to appear on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show to be grilled on the Civil Rights Act.

"Rand Paul made an amateur mistake," said Armey. "A freshman mistake. A rookie mistake. He thought MSNBC was a legitimate news organization, bless his heart... You don't want to talk to anyone in the press that is unprofessional or lazy. Now, basically what he did in that case was, he walked into the buzzsaw. The people who asked that question... any legitimate news person would have been embarrassed to see that. They're not news people. They're political hacks."

Another reporter asked Armey specifically about Angle's comments, made before she closed off some access to the press, mulling a "second amendment solution" to America's problems if she didn't beat Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"It is a problem," said Armey. "It is always a problem. People in the public arena are oftentimes going to say things that they wish they hadn't said. Lord knows I have. We all do that -- you've got to get past those things, forgive yourselves and move on... I bet you five minutes after she said that, she said, 'Dang! I wish I hadn't said that!"

Armey compared Angle's comments to a 2005 gaffe by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in which he claimed that people reading accounts of U.S. military abuses would think they were reading about the Nazis.

"Everybody was feigning moral outrage," said Armey. "I happen to like Dick Durbin. He's Irish. And I found myself feeling sorry for Dick. This isn't fair. Poor old Dick. He made a gaffe. So what? Then I thought, wait a minute, I remember when I was on the floor of the House and made a gaffe, and who was the guy screaming in my face and condemning me to the fires of the damned, for now and for ever, in moral outrage beyond any dimensions I could muster? It was Dick Durbin. So I said, the hell with it! He dishes it out, he can take it."

By David Weigel  |  June 16, 2010; 1:01 PM ET
Categories:  Tea Party  
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