Former Speaker of the House John A. Boehner sat for an interview with POLITICO magazine, unloading bitter recollections about his encounters with members of the conservative media, include Fox News show host Sean Hannity. “I had a conversation with [Sean] Hannity, probably about the beginning of 2015,” Boehner told the publication. “I called him and said, ‘Listen, you’re nuts.’ We had this really blunt conversation. Things were better for a few months, and then it got back to being the same-old, same-old. Because I wasn’t going to be a right-wing idiot.” In his remarks, Boehner appeared to defend Barack Obama's tenure as president.

Regarding the presidency of Donald Trump, Boehner said that Trump's victory came as “more of a symptom than the cause” of the intense political climate. He blamed cable news and social media for adding fuel to ideological debate within "media echo chambers.” “It was modern-day media, and social media, that kept pushing people further right and further left. People started to figure out … they could choose where to get their news. And so what do people do? They choose places they agree with, reinforcing the divide,” said Boehner.

The supposed conversation between Boehner and Hannity came in the year before Donald Trump began his ultimately successful presidential bid. Hannity, for his part, Hannity denied that the chat ever happened. He tweeted on Sunday, “John, were you sober when you said this? That conversation never happened. I’m sorry you are bitter and you failed!”

As for other luminaries of media on the right, Boehner was unstinting in his criticisms. Speaking to POLITICO reporter Tim Alberta, Boehner said, “I always liked Rush [Limbaugh]," adding, “When I went to Palm Beach, I would always meet with Rush and we’d go play golf. But you know, who was that right-wing guy, [Mark] Levin? He went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged [Sean] Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys — I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly they’re beating the living s--- out of me.”

Leading up to his resignation as Speaker, Republicans and conservative media had criticized Boehner for what they regarded as lackluster performance confronting Barack Obama and Democrats on issues such as immigration, the Affordable Care Act, abortion, government debt and spending.

Partial transcript:

"People thought in ’09, ’10, ’11, that the country couldn’t be divided more. And you go back to Obama’s campaign in 2008, you know, he was talking about the divide and healing the country and all of that. And some would argue on the right that he did more to divide the country than to unite it. I kind of reject that notion…

"It was modern-day media, and social media, that kept pushing people further right and further left. People started to figure out … they could choose where to get their news. And so what do people do? They choose places they agree with, reinforcing the divide…

"I always liked Rush [Limbaugh]. When I went to Palm Beach I would always meet with Rush and we’d go play golf. But you know, who was that right-wing guy, [Mark] Levin? He went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged [Sean] Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys—I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly they’re beating the living shit out of me… I wasn’t going to be a right-wing idiot.



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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