Kurtz continuing pattern of using questions to advance GOP talking points and suggest "liberal media bias"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz continued his pattern of raising the issue of media bias by repeating conservative claims in the form of questions when he asked on November 12 if "journalists [are] quietly rejoicing over the Democratic takeover of Congress." He then wondered: "[W]ill they cover Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as aggressively as they once scrutinized Newt Gingrich?"

At the outset of the November 12 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, host and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz asked if "journalists [are] quietly rejoicing over the Democratic takeover of Congress," then wondered: "[W]ill they cover [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [CA] and [Senate Democratic Leader] Harry Reid [NV] as aggressively as they once scrutinized [former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich [R-GA]?" Then, moving on to the resignation of Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary, Kurtz asked: "Did the media make Rummy a scapegoat for an unpopular war?" These questions are among the latest examples of a consistent pattern exhibited by Kurtz in which he suggests that the media's supposed liberal or pro-Democratic Party slant dominates coverage of political events or scandals while giving credence to conservative claims of "media bias" by raising right-wing talking points in the form of questions.

Indeed, in April, Media Matters documented numerous instances of Kurtz's raising the issue of media bias by repeating conservative claims in the form of questions in his "Media Notes" Washington Post column or on Reliable Sources. Below is a list of examples from Reliable Sources since Media Matters' April item showing Kurtz repeating the pattern. In none of these did Kurtz accompany the question below with one suggesting the opposite. For example:

  • On June 18, Kurtz noted that "[a]fter years of media speculation, the president's top political adviser [Karl Rove] is not indicted in the Valerie Plame leak investigation," adding "[w]as he all but convicted in the press?" Kurtz then asserted that "President Bush trie[d] to boost support for the war with a surprise visit to Baghdad and a face-off with the White House press" and asked: "Can he change the media mind-set on Iraq?"
  • On June 25, Kurtz asked: "Is the press playing up U.S. military mistakes in Iraq?"
  • Also on June 25, Kurtz asked: "[D]id The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal go too far in revealing a secret administration program to examine banking records in terror investigations?" Similarly, on July 2, Kurtz noted that "[President] George Bush, [Vice President] Dick Cheney, and an army of conservative critics rip[ped] The New York Times for disclosing a secret program for monitoring the banking records of terror suspects." Kurtz then wondered: "Did [New York Times executive] editor Bill Keller go too far?"
  • Asserting on July 9 that "loyal Democrat" Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT) is "under fire from liberal bloggers for backing the war in Iraq" and noting that Lieberman "says he'll run as an independent if he loses Connecticut's Democratic primary," Kurtz asked: "Has the press turned on the former vice presidential nominee?"
  • On August 13, Kurtz asked: "[A]re the media turning on Joe Lieberman now that he's still running after losing the Democratic primary?"
  • On September 24, while introducing a segment on the Virginia Senate campaign of Republican Sen. George F. Allen, who subsequently lost his re-election bid to former Navy Secretary Jim Webb (D), Kurtz claimed that "[a] Washington television reporter asked George Allen whether his mother is Jewish, prompting a scolding from the Virginia senator and a media frenzy in his re-election campaign." He then asked: "Did the reporter go too far? And why is this a huge story?" As Media Matters noted, some observers did indeed interpret Allen's response to the question as an indication that he believes there is "something wrong" with being Jewish.
  • Echoing three of the top falsehoods Media Matters documented of the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), Kurtz asked on October 15: "Are the media going too far in pumping up the Mark Foley sex scandal? Is there really an effort to out gay Republicans? And were Democratic operatives involved in spreading the story to the press?" Kurtz also asked: "Matt Drudge -- as influential as [former CBS Evening News anchor] Walter Cronkite?"
  • On October 29, Kurtz started the program by wondering: "Are the media mounting an election eve drumbeat for the Democrats? Have news organizations given up on the conflict in Iraq?" Kurtz could have followed up this question with another: "Or are the suggestions in the media of the likelihood of Democratic advances in the midterm elections simply an accurate reflection of the public's disillusionment with the Republican-controlled Congress, the Bush administration, and the situation in Iraq?" He did not ask this or any question like it.

In addition, as Media Matters has also documented, in his March 27 Media Notes column, Kurtz asked: "Have the media declared war on the war [in Iraq]?" In that column, as well as in a March 27 online chat, Kurtz apparently ignored the response CBS News correspondent Lara Logan gave to a similar question Kurtz asked on the March 26 edition of Reliable Sources. In a detailed response, Logan flatly rebutted accusations repeated by Kurtz that the media have overemphasized the violence in Iraq.

Media Matters has also documented (here, here, here, here, and here) numerous instances in which Neil Cavuto, the host of Fox News' Your World, has similarly aired conservative talking points in the form of questions. He has asked: "Is the liberal media helping fuel terror?" "Are Democratic leaders who criticize the war in Iraq actually aiding the terrorists?" and "The #1 President On Mideast Matters: George W. Bush?"

From the June 18 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Rove's reprieve: After years of media speculation, the president's top political adviser is not indicted in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. Was he all but convicted in the press?

Stealth mission: President Bush tries to boost support for the war with a surprise visit to Baghdad and a face-off with the White House press. Can he change the media mind-set on Iraq?

From the June 25 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Aiding the enemy? Did The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal go too far in revealing a secret administration program to examine banking records in terror investigations? And is the press playing up U.S. military mistakes in Iraq? [New York Times columnist] Frank Rich and [National Review Online columnist] David Frum join the debate.

From the July 2 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Targeting the Times: George Bush, Dick Cheney, and an army of conservative critics rip The New York Times for disclosing a secret program for monitoring the banking records of terror suspects. Did editor Bill Keller go too far, or is the White House just bashing the media for political gain? And why have the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal been given a pass for publishing similar stories?

From the July 9 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: This loyal Democrat? Joe Lieberman, under fire from liberal bloggers for backing the war in Iraq, says he'll run as an independent if he loses Connecticut's Democratic primary. Has the press turned on the former vice presidential nominee?

From the August 13 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Plus, are the media turning on Joe Lieberman now that he's still running after losing the Democratic primary?

From the September 24 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Out of bounds? A Washington television reporter asked George Allen whether his mother is Jewish, prompting a scolding from the Virginia senator and a media frenzy in his re-election campaign. Did the reporter go too far? And why is this a huge story?

From the October 15 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Turning ugly: Are the media going too far in pumping up the Mark Foley sex scandal? Is there really an effort to out gay Republicans? And were Democratic operatives involved in spreading the story to the press?

[...]

Matt Drudge -- as influential as Walter Cronkite? Why two of the nation's top political reporters say the Republicans have mastered the art of the online leak.

From the October 29 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Crunch time: Are the media mounting an election eve drumbeat for the Democrats? Have news organizations given up on the conflict in Iraq?

From the November 5 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Trivial pursuit: As the midterm elections careen toward the finish line, how did the media wind up spending so much time on sex, sleaze, and smarmy attacks? Are journalists following candidates down the low road or rewarding them?

From the November 12 edition of Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Covering a "thumpin' ": Are journalists quietly rejoicing over the Democratic takeover of Congress they kept predicting, and will they cover Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as aggressively as they once scrutinized Newt Gingrich?

CBS' Gloria Borger, ABC's Martha Raddatz, and CNN's Candy Crowley join our discussion.

Goodness gracious, he's out. Donald Rumsfeld dumped at the Pentagon days after President Bush vowed to keep his defense secretary. Did the media make Rummy a scapegoat for an unpopular war? And how will they treat his successor?

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, CNN
Person
Howard Kurtz
Show/Publication
Reliable Sources
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2006 Elections
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