Back in April, Howard Kurtz was shocked that Sean Hannity would misleadingly snip a quote by President Obama in order to criticize him, saying he "never imagined" Hannity would do such a thing. As I noted at the time:
Really? This wasn't even a 6 on the Sean Hannity Dishonesty Scale. Howard Kurtz could never imagine that Sean Hannity would criticize Barack Obama in such a way? Of course he would; this is what Sean Hannity does. He isn't honest. It's Howard Kurtz's job to know these things.
Now, with Sean Hannity caught red-handed by Jon Stewart inflating the size of a recent anti-health care rally by illustrating his report with video from a previous rally, Howard Kurtz still can't imagine that Hannity would do such a thing intentionally.
Here's Kurtz in today's online Q&A:
Seattle, Wash.: ... the story was that FOX News appeared to be manipulating the story. The fact that Hannity made an apology should tell you something. FOX was caught trying to make the GOP's anti-health care crowd seem much bigger than it was.
Don't you think there is some obvious manipulation? Who edited the tape, and if Hannity had been there, why didn't he call the out the tape error as it happened?
Howard Kurtz: I have no way of knowing. Hannity did the right thing by apologizing; I have no evidence that it was done intentionally, which would mean someone decided to risk getting caught in huge embarrassment for the sake of 10 seconds of video...
(Well, Howard Kurtz, the nation's most prominent media critic, could certainly pick up a phone and start asking folks at Fox some questions, but let's set that aside for now.)
Hamilton, Va.: This week on "Inside Washington" Nina Totenberg mentioned Hannity and Stewart re the "mix up" of demonstration footage. Gordon Barnes just blew her off by saying, "Yeah, well he apoligized," as if that just ended it. I was disappointed that Gordon thought you could fake the news but then apologize and all is good.
Howard Kurtz: It was an embarrassing incident for Hannity and Fox. But "fake" the news sounds like it was deliberate, and there is no proof of that. There are other times where Hannity and his staff have deliberately truncated Obama sound bites to distort his meaning or delete an important qualifier, and I have criticized him for that. That is no accident. But the rally footage could have been a staff blunder.
Sure, it could have been! But Fox News is deeply dishonest. Howard Kurtz knows Hannity and his staff have "deliberately" edited Obama sound bites "to distort his meaning." And yet he persists in giving Hannity the benefit of the doubt; to simply assume that this time, Hannity and his staff weren't being dishonest; they were being sloppy. And Kurtz refuses to pursue the obvious questions these examples and others raise about what Eric Boehlert described last week as the "larger cultural problem inside Fox News."