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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Media Get Tougher With Old Pal 'Pat'

WASHINGTON -- For Patrick Buchanan, the fiery populist, the presidential candidate who loves to denounce the Washington establishment, the line between journalist, White House operative and candidate had been all but obliterated, each incarnation enhancing the next.

Little wonder, then, that candidate Buchanan works the talk-show circuit more relentlessly than any of his rivals. But in a campaign environment in which many reporters call him "Pat," critics are questioning whether his former colleagues have been treating him with kid gloves.

That may be starting to change as Buchanan vies for the lead in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. On ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley" Sunday, he was grilled about his controversial comments on women, blacks, nuclear weapons and creationism.

Buchanan brushed aside the attacks, blaming them on "the elite in Washington, D.C."

The former speechwriter for President Richard Nixon moved from co-host of CNN's "Crossfire" to the Reagan White House in 1985, then back to "Crossfire." He left again to run for president in 1992, returned to "Crossfire" to bash President Clinton, the man he wanted to oppose, then quit last year to mount his second presidential bid.

Buchanan's long history of inflammatory statements -- calling Congress "Israeli-occupied territory," suggesting that "Zulus" would be harder to assimilate than "Englishmen," saying women "are simply not endowed by nature" to compete with men -- has drawn little media attention until recent days.

"He's gotten a virtually free ride in the last few months on bigotry and racism," said Jeff Cohen, head of the liberal group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and an occasional "Crossfire" guest host. "A lot of blacks, women, gays and Jews are afraid of him. But because he's one of the leaders of the pundit elite -- 'Oh, he's such a sweet guy,' they say -- there's this dissonance. They don't see him in the same light."

In a recent column Washington Post political writer David Broder remarked on "the inability of reporters to maintain their distance from a guy they have known so well so long. ... For Buchanan, the palsy-walsy atmosphere is a protective blanket."

Others say the media simply did not take Buchanan seriously before his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. But after last week's report linking one of his campaign co-chairmen with white supremacists, the tone of the coverage became more critical.