Could it be because they are both employed by CNN?
Lou Dobbs' leap onto the Birther bandwagon has been big news this week. CNN reporters have debunked the conspiracy theory; MSNBC has covered it; Jon Stewart has mocked it; Chris Matthews has suggested the faux controversy is "not about documentation, but pigmentation." CNN officials have even felt compelled to comment.
Everybody, it seems, has weighed in, denouncing Dobbs' walk on the wild side.
Everybody, that is, except the nation's most famous media critic. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz hasn't managed to criticize Dobbs.
He has certainly had the opportunity. With a column in the print edition of the Post, and expanded online "Media Notes" column each day, a weekly "online discussion" on the Post's web site, a widely-read Twitter account, and a gig as a host and commentator for CNN, Howard Kurtz has more opportunity to weigh in on high-profile media stories than any other media critic in America.
Yet Kurtz has been all but silent. Here is every single word Howard Kurtz has written about Dobb's Birtherism:
Lou Dobbs has also raised questions about Obama's birth certificate.
Kurtz couldn't even bring himself to note that Obama is, in fact, a US citizen, fully qualified for the office he holds -- much less actually criticize Lou Dobbs.
And that's it. Not so much as a Tweet of criticism of Lou Dobbs.
That's an awfully big media story for the nation's most famous media critic to take a pass on.
It should be noted that Kurtz's dual role as media critic for the Washington Post and employee of CNN has raised conflict of interest concerns in the past. The Post's Ombudsman had to address the issue recently after Kurtz defended CNN in an online discussion without disclosing his ties to the cable channel.
So, let's see: A Washington Post reporter has taken a pass on the biggest story in the beat he covers -- a story that just happens to reflect poorly on a company that the reporter draws a paycheck from on the side. Sounds like something the nation's leading media critic should take a look at! Oh... damn.
If Kurtz doesn't devote a column and/or this week's Reliable Sources broadcast to his CNN colleague Lou Dobbs' reckless birth certificate nuttiness, he should spend that time examining his own conflict of interest.
UPDATE: Here's another (somewhat amusing) example of Kurtz tripping over his dual roles at CNN and the Post.
Nonetheless, Politico's Ben Smith announced that:
After spending most of an hour patiently reiterating his arguments for changing the health insurance system, President Barack Obama turned his press conference sharply toward an iconic moment in American race relations: The arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. earlier this week by the Cambridge Police.
Of course, based on how press conferences work, it wasn't Obama who turned the presser "sharply" in the direction of race. It was the reporter who asked the question. But that's not the tale Smith wanted to tell.
In a July 22 post, headlined, "Shame on Rush," The American Spectator's Philip Klein writes that while "I'd like to continue to ignore this [Obama birth certificate] story entirely, it's hard to do when a figure like Rush Limbaugh is giving it credence. ... I've lost a ton of respect for Limbaugh this week." From his post:
While I'd like to continue to ignore this story entirely, it's hard to do when a figure like Rush Limbaugh is giving it credence, declaring this week that, "Barack Obama has yet to have to prove that he's a citizen. All he has to do is show a birth certificate. He has yet to have to prove he's a citizen." If he addresses the issue at all, Limbaugh should be using his perch to explain why this story is complete nonsense. Doing so would help to keep these citizenship conspiracy theorists in the fringe, where they belong. Instead, he's just encouraging them. I've lost a ton of respect for Limbaugh this week.
Meanwhile, Florida Rep. Bill Posey has also added cover to the lunatic conspiracy mongers by offering a House bill aimed at having future presidential candidates produce birth certificates. It has 9 Republican co-sponsors so far, and all of them should be embarrassed: Marsha Blackburn, Dan Burton, John Campbell, John Carter, John Abney Culberson, Bob Goodlatte, Kenny Merchant, Rander Neugebauer, and Ted Poe.
Some who attempt to take neutral ground on this issue ask, why doesn't Obama just release his original birth certificate and put this matter to rest? There are two reasons. The first is that it would obviously not put the issue to rest, because the conspiracy theorists have demonstrated that they do not care about facts. At this point, anybody who questions whether Obama is a citizen will not be convinced otherwise because of a document released by the White House. But beyond that, there's absolutely no reason for Obama to cave into these people. Doing so would set a standard in the future so that people can start whatever insane rumors they want about an elected official, and then the burden is on the official to dispute them. It's no different than those calling for an investigation of whether 9/11 was an inside job.
This is the last thing that I intend to write on the issue, because I'd prefer to concentrate my energy on laying out why Obama's ideas and actual policy proposals will have disastrous consequences for the nation, just one American criticizing another.
From the June 21 letter to Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes, signed by 14 Democrats and 9 Republicans:
As members of Congress and veterans of the United States Armed Forces, it was with incredulity and disgust that we watched Fox News Strategic Analyst Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (Ret.) suggest on your airwaves that Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, "abandoned his buddies, abandoned his post, and just walked off," and stated that, if this is true, "the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills."
Mr. Peters' comments are so far beyond the pale that they don't even approach the decorum and respect deserved by a member of the United States Armed Forces. Mr. Peters' indefensible comments call into question, without any supporting evidence whatsoever, PFC Bergdahl's patriotism and commitment to his country, and suggest in a non-subtle way that he deserved to be captured. The events surrounding the capture of PFC Bergdahl are irrelevant at this point.
The only priority should be his safe and immediate release to U.S. forces.
We demand an apology to PFC Bergdahl's family and to the thousands of soldiers who put their lives on the line for our country. As a member of the military family, Mr. Peters should measure his remarks and remember that the United States will never abandon one of its own.
Rep. Eric Massa's (D-NY) press release in its entirety:
Congressman Eric Massa demands that Fox News immediately fire Bill O'Reilly and Lt. Col Ralph Peters and apologize to the family of PFC Bowe Bergdahl
Retired Navy Commander stands up for Prisoner of War and condemns Fox News
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressman Eric Massa held a press call to condemn the deeply offensive and unpatriotic statements of Lt. Col Ralph Peters (ret.) and Fox News Host Bill O'Reilly about prisoner of war PFC Bowe Bergdahl.
On Fox News on Monday, Mr. Peters, a "strategic analyst" for Fox News, suggested that the Taliban should execute PFC Bergdahl and "save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills." Rep. Massa, a 24 year retired Navy Commander was shocked and deeply appalled that any American would ever wish for the death of one of our soldiers. You can watch this video by clicking here.
On Tuesday night, Mr. Peters made another appearance on Fox's O'Reilly Factor. During this appearance, Mr. Peters refused to apologize and Bill O'Reilly speculated that PFC Bergdahl must be "crazy." You can view that video by clicking here.
Earlier that evening, Rep. Massa joined with 22 other Congressional veterans in sending a letter to Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes demanding he issue an apology to the family of PFC Bergdahl. You can read this letter by clicking here.
"Words cannot express how furious I am at Fox News, Lt. Col Ralph Peters and Bill O'Reilly for suggesting that we should leave a prisoner of war behind and allow him to be executed by the Taliban to save us the trouble of trying to intervene" said Congressman Eric Massa. "Last night I joined with a bipartisan group of 22 other Congressional veterans in demanding an immediate apology to the family of PFC Bergdahl from Fox News, but I don't think that goes far enough. I want to see Mr. Peters and Mr. O'Reilly fired immediately for their inexcusable attacks on a prisoner of war. Their comments aid and abet our enemies during a time of war and the burden is on Fox News to prove that they reject this by taking the tangible action of issuing an apology and firing both of them."
"As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I know that our military is doing all they can to rescue PFC Bergdahl. My thoughts and prayers are with PFC Bergdahl and his family during this challenging time and I'll do anything I can to help them," added Rep. Massa.
From a July 22 Newsday blog post by sports columnist Neil Best:
ESPN retaliated Wednesday against the New York Post for its decision to use still images of Erin Andrews from an illegally obtained videotape, banning Post staffers from its various outlets, including its TV networks and 1050 ESPN Radio.
"In light of the New York Post's decision to run graphic photos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, we have decided to stop utilizing Post reporters on any of our outlets," ESPN's senior VP of communications, Chris LaPlaca said.
"Erin was grievously wronged here, and while we understand the Post's decision to cover this as a news story, their running photos obtained in such a fashion went well beyond the boundaries of common decency in the interest of sensationalism. This is not a decision we undertook lightly, but we feel it is an appropriate one."
The Post used images both in print and on its Web site Tuesday from a video the showed Andrews in the nude in a hotel room.
It is not yet clear where the video was shot or who shot it, but Andrews' attorney has promised legal action against any media outlet that publishes the material.
LaPlaca stressed it was the Post's use of the photos, not the story itself, that was objectionable. And that the decision was not directed at the Post employees who have appeared on ESPN outlets, whom he called "innocent bystanders."
CBS and Fox used snippets of the video itself on their morning shows Tuesday, which LaPlaca called "beyond the pale."
But he said ESPN could not take the kind of action against those networks that it did against the Post because ESPN does not regularly employ those networks' personnel.
Today, CNN's Tony Harris provided Senator Tom Coburn with an uncontested platform from which to broadcast a host of conservative objections to Democratic health care reform efforts. Not only did Harris make no effort to provide a countervailing point of view or fact-check Coburn's statements, he legitimized the Senator's viewpoint through effusive praise, ending the interview like this:
"We love having you on the program. You know, we think you're a reasonable voice in all of this, and we're trying to stay out of the echo chamber of all the noise and we're trying to stay focused on how to get this done. If you wouldn't mind, we've got an open invitation for you to come on the program."
A reasonable voice? What would Coburn have to say in order for Harris to consider him unreasonable?
Well, pretending to be Ricky Ricardo while questioning Sonia Sotomayor doesn't count. Nor does lamenting the "rampant" lesbianism in Oklahoma's schools, or decrying the fact that the "gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country," resulting in an agenda that promotes "the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners" and is "the greatest threat to our freedom we face today."
And just to be clear: believing that the President is "way too young and way too inexperienced to lead this country" while also thinking that silicone breast implants make you healthier -- that's all reasonable, too.
Thank goodness we steered clear of that echo chamber!
If we're going to spend the next week hearing about Rahm Emanuel's comment about "rescuing" the economy -- and it seems likely it will, given how the right-wing noise machine is latching onto it -- wouldn't it be nice to know what he actually said?
The quote comes from a New York Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg that provides precious little context -- and precious few words inside quotation marks:
Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview that the president intended to use the news conference, scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern time, as a "six-month report card," to talk about "how we rescued the economy from the worst recession" and the legislative agenda moving forward, including health care and energy legislation, which squeaked through the House and faces a tough road in the Senate.
Sure looks like Emanuel was simply saying that the Obama administration's policies have saved the country from what would have been a much worse recession. Nothing particularly scandalous about that, even if you don't agree with him.
But John Boehner is cropping that already brief quote, turning it into a claim that the Obama administration has "rescued the economy" -- dropping off the bit about "from the worst recession" -- and Politico is there to type up Boehner's comments and fail to provide the missing context.
Based on what the Times reported, that's a phony line of attack, and media should make that clear rather than enabling it. But it would also be helpful if the Times made the full context available.
Poll data about whether people "approve of President Obama's handling of health care" tells us approximately nothing.
Some may disapprove because they think the government should have no involvement in health care whatsoever, and wish Obama would push a repeal of Medicare. Some may disapprove because they favor true government-run health care wherein the government employs doctors and runs hospitals. Some may disapprove because they want exactly what Obama is proposing, but think he is pursuing a flawed political approach to passing the legislation.
In short, poll questions about whether people approve of Obama's handling of health care, without getting at why they feel that way, are pretty much useless at this stage of the game. Please stop reporting them as though they are meaningful.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.