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Sen. Ben Sasse says GOP politicians focusing on cable news appearances are 'peddling crack' to appeal to the next 'angry octogenarian'

Business Insider
Business Insider
 2022-06-04

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Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska at a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2022.
  • Republican Sen. Ben Sasse gave a speech Thursday night largely criticizing his party.
  • Sasse said that using cable news to campaign to the "new angry octogenarian" may be ineffective.
  • He also claimed that "the loudest politicians and the media demagogues" still go viral.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse warned that his fellow GOP politicians rely too much on cable television.

Sasse's remarks were part of a nearly hour-long speech Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute's "A Time for Choosing" speaker series . The series at the California presidential library centered on the future of the Republican party.

The Nebraska senator used the platform primarily to criticize his party for appealing too heavily to a small population of aging TV viewers, saying the strategy lacked longevity.

"Politicians who spend their days shouting in Congress, so they can spend their nights shouting on cable, are peddling crack – mostly to the already addicted, but also with glittery hopes of finding a new angry octogenarian out there," he said.

Sasse claims that less than 2% of the country watches cable on any given day.

"And this 2% is not remotely representative of the country. The median age of an MSNBC viewer is 68. CNN, basically the same," said the senator. Insider was unable to confirm that percentage. However, 2021 data from Neilson found that in 2021, the median age for both Fox and MSNBC viewers was 68 years old. The CNN median age was 64 so far this year, according to the Washington Post.

A February 2022 survey conducted by Statista , a data provider, found that 21% of US adults relied on cable to get their daily news, while 36% said that they never used cable news for news.

"Fox evening programming has an even more geriatric audience. Gen-Xers and Millennials and Zoomers (the generations that make up our entire future) are not listening to any of the fanservice media," he continued.

The Nebraska Senator also took issue with using social media to send out messages to the public. He brought up the topic again at the Thursday event, saying "Political Twitter isn't real."

Sasse had previously spoken about the intersection between social media and politics while also calling out members of both parties , including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Matt Gaetz, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

"The vast majority of traffic on Twitter is driven by well under 2% of the public. And yet politicians – again, left and right are barely distinguishable – in seeking to cater to this tiny minority and the algorithms that drive addicted-engagement," the Republican claimed in his speech.

"Nonetheless, the loudest politicians and the media demagogues who enable and encourage them still daily go viral just by preaching to their little siloed choirs," he added.

Sasse also took a jab at President Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, for his Twitter usage .

Biden "immediately handed the staffing of his White House to far-left 20-somethings and a chief of staff who literally lives on Twitter," Sasse said in his Reagan Library speech. "That is Ron Klain's constituency."

Sasse did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Klain declined Insider's request for comment.

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