Howard Kurtz seems to be committed to making his conflict of interest as obvious as possible. Here's Kurtz during an appearance on the conservative Hugh Hewitt radio show:
HUGH HEWITT (host): The second story, the birthers. Today, the National Review joined me, [radio host] Michael Medved, most every center-right responsible conservative I know in denouncing the idea that the president isn't a citizen. But yet this story continues to have legs. Today, the Hawaii guy came out and said, no, we got his birth certificate, how long does this go on, Howard, and do you sense that the media is - and by that I mean, mainstream media, is having fun with this because it has the potential to embarrass some conservatives because of the, in the way that the [9-11] Truthers embarrassed some Democrats?
KURTZ: Probably in some quarters. I applaud the conservatives who have stood up and said basically this is wacko stuff, there's not a shred of evidence, I don't want to associate with these folks. I don't understand why this has gotten so much prominence, particularly on cable television in the first place if we make a judgment as journalists that this is basically a lot of garbage, then why do we have to spend a lot of time flogging this horse? The guy who has been flogging this the most, it seems to me, is Chris Matthews on MSNBC. And while I agree with his general point of view on this, which is that it is a load of baloney, he - I don't think there's been one show in the last seven where he hasn't dragged somebody on - G. Gordon Liddy, whoever - in order to beat up on that person. So -
HEWITT: I think he does it because --
KURTZ: -- I think it's got enough attention.
HEWITT: -- It's low-hanging fruit. It's such an easy target. It's making fun of people with marginal grasp of logic and so I think it's just too easy for him, but I hope it goes away soon because it does divert from the key discussion, and this is the question, is healthcare being covered the right way.
No mention of CNN. No mention of Lou Dobbs. No mention of Jonathan Klein's defense of Dobbs. Instead, Kurtz singles out Chris Matthews, who has been debunking the birther nonsense, as the person primarily responsible for it, rather than Lou Dobbs, who has been promoting it.
And, as I'm sure you know by now, CNN pays Howard Kurtz a nice chunk of change. Might that have anything to do with his refusal to hold CNN -- whose president, Jonathan Klein, defends Dobbs' promotion of birther conspiracy theories -- responsible for their conduct?
How could it not?
(See also InstaPutz)
Because this morning, Goldberg, a frequent Beck show guest, wouldn't clearly condemn the attack.
Instead, Goldberg, rather unconvincingly, claimed he hadn't seen the clip of Beck calling Obama a racist. (Yes, Goldberg wrote about the topic w/o taking ten seconds to find the video and watch it.) And then Goldberg meekly suggested that Beck ought to maybe "clarify" his remarks because, ha-ha, maybe Beck was just goofing around when he called the President of the United States a "racist."
But now Beck has doubled down and stands by his claim. We eagerly await Goldberg's unequivocal condemnation of Beck. (Don't laugh!)
UPDATED: Goldberg has now taken the time to watch the Beck clips and (surprise!) thinks Beck has nothing to apologize for in terms of calling Obama a racist. i.e. If Beck believes it, than he ought to say it!
In other words, in just the span of roughly 24 hours it has suddenly become CW within conservative media circles that our president is "racist." Which means it's now open season for conservatives to play the race card.
Did we mention Goldberg's a frequent guest on Beck's show. But certainly access to that mass media platform, which allows Goldberg to pitch his books, has nothing to do with Goldberg's rather clumsy and unsightly attempt to justify Beck's claim that the President of the United States is a racist, right?
Didn't think so.
From MSNBC host Joe Scarborough's Twitter account:
From Joseph Curl's July 29 Washington Times column:
Tuesday's vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor was so far in the bag that minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee took a roll call, Chairman Patrick J. Leahy was on his cell phone, chatting and smiling and having a grand old time.
The Vermont Democrat had already drawn laughter from the crowd in Hart 216 when he said, "I look forward to a bipartisan vote."
While Mr. Leahy is legally blind in one eye, the fourth-most senior member of the Senate surely had no illusion that Republicans would support the self-described "wise Latina woman."
And they didn't. All but one voted against the first Hispanic nominee to the high court, and several seemed miffed at President Obama and his so-called "empathy standard -- his belief that judges should mine their compassion in addition to having a deference to the Constitution.
From a July 29 post on the NBC News blog First Read by political director Chuck Todd, deputy political director Mark Murray, political researcher Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg:
*** On the Glenn Becks and Howard Beales: The White House doesn't want to give Glenn Beck a bigger platform or extra oxygen -- especially regarding his remark yesterday that the president has "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture" -- so they won't comment, even off record. Beck, after all, is a radio DJ who somehow ended up getting a national platform to give his opinion on politics. What's most amazing about this episode is that what Beck said isn't a fireable or even a SUSPENDABLE offense by his bosses. There was a time when outrageous rants like this would actually cost the ranters their jobs. But not anymore; if anything, it's now encouraged. And all of this could turn ACTUAL journalists into the next Howard Beales. It's getting nuts that the folks who are creating the perception of an ideological/polarized media world are people who have never really spent their lives being journalists. Whether it's former political consultants-turned-TV execs or former radio DJs, or former California socialites, the folks helping to accelerate the public's perception of the media off a cliff made their livings trying to do other things. Of course, Beck's crazy language could have one unintended consequence: It could cost him bookings with any Republicans who want to be popular outside Beck's hard-core bizarro-land viewers.
In today's "Media Notes" column, Kurtz actually addresses the birther nonsense -- a breakthrough! But look at what he writes:
The folks who have been pushing the ludicrous claim that Barack Obama wasn't born in the US of A -- a fringe of a fringe -- have gotten way too much media attention. But it's been fascinating to watch how people on the right have handled this embarrassment.
And then Kurtz includes several paragraphs about the birthers, bringing the section to 491 words.
Not mentioned: Lou Dobbs or Jonathan Klein or CNN.
This is ridiculous. The most prominent of the "folks who have been pushing the ludicrous claim" is CNN's Lou Dobbs. CNN president Jonathan Klein defends Dobbs, and blasts Dobbs' critics. And the Washington Post's media critic is afraid to so much as mention them -- and, coincidentally, he draws a paycheck from CNN, too.
It's long past time for the Washington Post's ombudsman and editors to weigh in on Kurtz's behavior. The problem isn't just that Kurtz has a conflict of interest -- that has long been obvious, and the Post is obviously OK with it. But Kurtz's refusal to deal with this story appropriately shows that his reporting is affected by that conflict of interest.
From Lisa de Moraes' July 29 Washington Post column:
Sadly, TV critics mostly wanted to talk about Lou Dobbs, host of the news network's "I'm Lou Dobbs and You're Not," and his ongoing gasbagging about President Obama not coughing up his birth certificate.
Dobbs thinks that Obama should produce it to put to rest rantings and rumors that he's not actually a natural-born U.S. citizen and therefore not eligible to be president. Not producing the birth certificate looks pretty fishy, Dobbs has insinuated.
"There are two strands to this story," CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein began to explain patiently to the critics. "There are the facts and then there is the flap. What Lou, and everybody else at CNN, has done is very clearly report and run down the facts."
There is no doubt, Klein acknowledged, that Obama was born in Hawaii. "And Lou Dobbs has reported that over and over again."
Separate from that, Klein said, is the issue of people who believe it anyway. Dobbs, Klein explained, is merely "exploring those flaps."
"But it's a dead issue," he added.
Why give so much airtime to a dead issue? Glad you asked. TV critics did, too. More accurately, one asked: Why is so much airtime being devoted to "giving voice to this sort of idiocy on your network?"
Klein argued that CNN had spent a lot more time on health care, Afghanistan and Iraq, "but the spirit of your question is, why we devote any time," Klein said. (These news-network chiefs can be pretty patronizing.)
CNN viewers expect it to "do the reporting, present the facts and present a range of points of views" and then "viewers want to make up their own minds," Klein explained.
Which explains their upcoming documentary: "The World: Flat. We Report -- You Decide." Okay, we made that one up.
Not to be morose, but I'm happy that Walter Cronkite isn't around to see what's happened to television news in this country. And specifically, that the news legend doesn't have to witness the disgraceful performances this week from two leading television news executives who, when faced with painfully clear evidence that their anchors had crossed obvious lines of decency, refused to condemn those actions. Instead, they issued double-talk statements while rationalizing their team's deeply offensive, and even jaw-dropping, behavior.
The disturbing one-two this week by CNN's Jon Klein and Fox News' Bill Shine simply confirms that, at this moment in time at least, there appears to be no standards, no guidelines, of fairness or decency to which key cable news operators will adhere.
Klein's continued defense of Lou Dobbs' misguided adventure down the birther rabbit hole is like a train wreck that just won't end. It's now been several days since Klein decided to back Dobbs' "racist" birther crusade (that's what MSNBC's chief called it), and the damage being done to the network is now approaching the incalculable stage. The fact that both Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly have called Dobbs out for shoddy 'reporting' tells you all you need to know about the state of CNN today. Yet there was Klein appearing at the annual TV critics confab this week, continuing to pretend Dobbs hasn't been fueling the flames about Obama's birth place.
Meanwhile, at Fox News, Beck called Obama a "racist" on national TV. Sadly, this was a completely expected development from the radical right, which recently showed extraordinary comfort calling the most recent Supreme Court nominee a "racist." The far-right media in this country is making it quite plain that they're going to toss that label around with ease from here on out. (It's only a matter of time before the First Lady gets his with the tag, and I wouldn't rule out nuts like Beck going after Obama's kids as well.) It's conservatives who are going to play the race card whenever possible in order to divide Americans and foster racial hatred.
Still, Fox News likes to consider itself a news organization, so SVP Bill Shine took the time to issue a statement about Beck's obvious and odious race-baiting. And in that statement Shine insisted, basically, that Beck can say whatever he wants and Fox News takes no responsibility.
Like I said, I'm glad Walter Cronkite isn't around to see this.
UPDATED: And just to be clear about Klein's standard, if in the summer of 2002, Lou Dobbs had gone on CNN for several weeks and embraced the 9/11 Truther conspiracy theory, even though players on all sides of the political spectrum had debunked it, the head of CNN would have defended the anchor's choice to fuel that fire? The head of CNN would have stood by the anchor, issuing platitudes about how much he trusts his anchors to "to exercise their judgment"?
I don't buy it. I think there's an obvious double standard at CNN, among other places, for accepting irresponsible fear mongering when the target is a Democratic president.
Columnist Paul Krugman's July 28 post on his New York Times blog:
Bill O'Reilly explaining that of course America has lower life expectancy than Canada - we have 10 times as many people, so we have 10 times as many deaths.
I need a drink.
We noted this morning that on Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck said President Obama has "a deep-seated hatred for white people." Of the president, Beck went on to say that "this guy is, I believe, a racist."
Tonight, TVNewser posted the following statement from Bill Shine, Fox News' Senior Vice President of Programming in response:
"During Fox & Friends this morning, Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions."
Get it? Beck doesn't speak for Fox News, but we'll keep paying him to say anything he wants.