Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz for failing to disclose during a CBS appearance about a congressional election that Luntz had previously been a paid consultant for the candidate.
"I think you should have," Kurtz said during an August 10 interview with Luntz on his #MediaBuzz media criticism program, "because it just would have been leveling with the audience, hey, this is not some stranger."
Luntz discussed then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) surprise primary defeat on the June 11 edition of CBS This Morning, calling the loss "a blow for conversation" that is "bad for the country" because Cantor was "a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done." But neither he nor CBS acknowledged that Cantor's campaign had paid Luntz's company more than $15,000 in fees, as Media Matters documented.
Asked by Kurtz about the lack of disclosure, Luntz said that while "People raised that as an issue," he did not think it was necessary because he was introduced by CBS "as a Republican."
Luntz's excuse is consistent with that of a CBS spokesperson who told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple in June that the network had provided sufficient disclosure because Luntz's "work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
But as Wemple noted, "When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed." Media ethicists agreed in interviews with Media Matters, ripping CBS News for "outrageous" behavior that could be considered "not only bad, but corrupt."
Media are attacking Hillary Clinton as "out of touch" after she noted that she worked to pay off millions in legal debt by accepting speaking engagements. But Clinton's speaking income is consistent with other high-profile politicians, and she has long supported efforts to reduce poverty and income inequality.
Fox News' Howard Kurtz cherry-picked from a Politico article on President Obama to misleadingly portray him as having "checked out" of the presidency during his second term in order to "take advantage of the perks of office" like hanging out with celebrities and playing golf.
In a June 3 article for FoxNews.com, Kurtz criticized Obama's actions during his sixth year of presidency, claiming that he had "greatly diminished clout" and that he had "lowered his expectations" in order to "ramp up the partying." As proof, Kurtz pointed to excerpts from a recent Politico article on Obama's second term:
Barack Obama's presidency seems to be drifting in its sixth year, as he is all too aware.
Obama has downsized his ambitions, tempered his expectations and is trying to take advantage of the perks of office. He is inviting celebrities for private dinners and spending more time on the golf course.
Oh, and he's thinking more about his post-White House years.
These are among the takeaways in a major Politico piece that is largely sympathetic to the stymied president, even as it reports on his greatly diminished clout.
"The portrait emerges of a president shadowed by a deepening awareness that his time and power are finite, and that two-thirds of his presidency is already in the past tense," the piece says.
But the Politico article mainly focused on Obama's recent work on racial issues and political outreach. Kurtz downplayed the outreach angle, portraying it as "too little too late," and he completely ignored Obama's work on race.
Politico stated that Obama's coordination with Congress has "never been better":
For the first time, aides said, Obama is trying to respond to almost every letter from an individual lawmaker with a handwritten note. He is doing more public bill signings at the request of members, as he did May 23, when Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) got an Oval Office ceremony for two minor pieces of legislation establishing new congressional gold medals. Almost 40 lawmakers have received invites to travel on Air Force One this year, an increase from 28 at this time last year. He's directed staff to organize another round of cocktail hours with House and Senate Democrats at the White House.
Also this year, Obama began setting aside 45 minutes in his schedule every week to call a handful of Republican and Democratic lawmakers -- more than 70 so far -- to discuss issues, from ambitious initiatives like immigration to lower-profile bills such as patent reform. Obama had a dedicated "call time" early in his first term before it dropped off during the reelection campaign, although he has made calls outside this window, as well. The White House also has worked with lawmakers ahead of major announcements.
"The coordination between the White House and the Congress has never been better," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the No. 3 Senate leader who has served as the main point of contact with the White House.
Politico also pointed to Obama's recent work to discuss and push legislation around race through programs like My Brother's Keeper, accomplishments that were deemed too "polarizing" and "distracting" to work during previous terms:
The man who broke barriers as the first African-American president is tackling race -- a subject he once shooed aside as a polarizing distraction -- in a far more personal and public way than ever.
Obama was selective about when he waded into the issue during his first term, after the controversy ignited by his off-the-cuff comment on the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, an African-American who was suspected of burglary, by a white police officer.
Instead, Obama emphasized broad economic equality as the best way to deal with lingering racial injustice and disparities, a message that blurred the lines between black and white in the same way his candidacy aimed to do. That approach -- an electoral necessity in the view of Obama's brain trust -- disappointed African-Americans, who saw it as a lost opportunity for Obama to exert his voice.
Obama no longer feels so constrained, especially as he seeks ways besides legislation to have an impact.
Kurtz's analysis of Obama not only ignored his administration's recent political accomplishments such as the groundbreaking proposed EPA regulations to reduce carbon emissions, but also echoes the right-wing media's false narrative that Obama is lazy for playing golf or taking vacations.
Gender bias and sensationalism in the media is something political figures like Hillary Clinton simply need to "deal with," according to Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz.
In a May 28 column, Kurtz highlighted a newly released excerpt from Hillary Clinton's upcoming book, Hard Choices, in an attempt to analyze Clinton's purported wariness of the press. He gave particular attention to a New Yorker article, published the same day as the book excerpt, which detailed the media's obsessive focus on Clinton. While the New Yorker noted that Clinton supporters attribute "some of the negative" coverage she has faced to sexism, Kurtz offered an alternate take:
My take is this: Let's say Hillary's people are right and that the press is petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean to women? Deal with it. It's like complaining about bad weather. Every candidate has to cope with an adversarial media, and Democrats usually get a break at least on social issues.
Media coverage of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign was a gender debacle. Press featured "news" segments on Hillary's hair style, examinations of the Clinton "cackle," and even a 750-word rumination on the "startling" amount of cleavage then-Sen. Clinton "displayed" on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
From the May 2 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized his own network's coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, blasting the network for elevating Bundy's anti-government agenda and turning the lawless rancher into a folk hero before falling silent when Bundy's racist remarks came to light.
Fox News darling Cliven Bundy rose to his folk hero status after he failed to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land, following decades of refusing to pay required grazing fees. Fox News and other right-wing media elevated the story with substantial coverage, championing Bundy and his supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials.
But when Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, Fox News fell silent, abruptly ending their incessant promotion of the lawless rancher. The New York Times first reported that Bundy had questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," and Media Matters quickly obtained video of the racist remarks.
On the April 27 edition his Fox News show #MediaBuzz, Kurtz posited that Fox News "fell seriously short" in their coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy once his "blatantly racist" comments were revealed, after having previously built Bundy up "as a symbol of resistance":
Media critics on Fox News and CNN criticized a recent article that outed the inventor of a golf putter as a transgender woman. The two networks' history of problematic transgender coverage suggests that CNN and Fox could stand to take their own advice.
On January 15, the sports website Grantland published a lengthy article by Caleb Hannan about Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, the founder of Yar Golf and inventor of a "scientifically superior" golf club. In the story, which Hannan described as "the strangest story I've ever worked on," Hannan outed "Dr. V" as a trans woman. Hannan wrote that during the course of his reporting, Vanderbilt resisted his outing of her. At the end of the article, he revealed that Vanderbilt had killed herself.
Hannan's digging into Vanderbilt's personal life -- and his problematic framing of a transgender woman's identity as "strange" - sparked fierce criticism and generated questions about the role his invasive reporting may have played in Vanderbilt's suicide. On January 26, CNN's Reliable Sources and Fox's #MediaBuzz weighed in on the controversy, with hosts and panelists on both shows agreeing that Grantland should have consulted a trans person before proceeding with the article.
On Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter invited ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl and GLAAD's Tiq Milan to discuss the story and the ethical questions it raised:
MILAN: What journalists can take away from this is exactly what [Grantland editor-in-chief] Bill Simmons said in his letter ... to consult with LGBT organizations like GLAAD or like the National Center of Trans Equality to see how to better -- what are the best practices to deal with situations like this.
STELTER: It goes back to one of these journalistic maxims that diversity is so important to have in newsrooms. But I wonder if that's easier said than done sometimes for these places. I think you made a point, Christina, that the article was being written for an audience that could have learned a lot about the transgender community if only the research had been done.
Meanwhile, on Fox's #MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz dubbed Grantland's story a "media fail":
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz reneged on his promise to cover a new biography offering a harsh critique of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes on Fox's media show, #MediaBuzz.
On the January 19 edition of #MediaBuzz, Kurtz said he would cover the newly released book, New York writer Gabriel Sherman's The Loudest Voice In The Room, on the following week's show, saying:
First, a programming note. A biography of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes by a New York Magazine reporter has been getting plenty of media attention. We will talk about it, on next week's show.
But Kurtz did not report on the book as promised during his January 26 show, as Variety noted. Segments featured on the show instead included discussions of Glenn Beck's time at Fox News, media coverage of Wendy Davis' campaign for Texas governor, and the Chris Christie bridge scandal.
Fox News has attempted to discredit the Loudest Voice for more than a year, attacking Sherman personally and reportedly firing a top Fox executive for leaking information to the author. Ailes also cooperated with conservative journalist Zev Chafets' 2013 biography Roger Ailes, Off Camera, reportedly "because he was eager to preempt Sherman's version with a more favorable and hopefully sympathetic account of his legacy."
A review of Sherman's book found that Fox was right to be worried; unlike Off Camera, Sherman's biography revealed an unflattering portrait of Ailes as a vindictive, paranoid partisan who uses his cable news network as a clearinghouse for Republican propaganda.
Media Matters has previously found that Kurtz has been giving his employer a pass since taking the position as Fox's media analyst last year. An analysis of Kurtz's television appearances and online columns during his first two months on the job found that he almost entirely avoided criticizing Fox News, including ignoring controversies related to the network that had been widely covered elsewhere.
Variety's Brian Lowry noted that Kurtz's failure to report on Sherman's Ailes biography once again calls his credibility into question:
For in-house media critics to have any credibility, they have to be willing to at least occasionally explore the shortcomings of their employers. And given all the coverage regarding Ailes' concern regarding the book and his alleged campaign against the author, Kurtz looked caught between the proverbial rock and hard place -- so much so that ignoring the book would have been preferable to creating the appearance of acting as Ailes' surrogate.
Nevertheless, to promise coverage -- as Kurtz did on air at the close of last week's program -- and then renege creates an impression of Kurtz as Ailes' lap dog. And it's not like there weren't ways to approach Sherman's biography in a skeptical manner, especially after New York Times critic Janet Maslin panned the book, providing some cover from one of the bastions of liberal media Fox News so regularly derides.
From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz:
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Fox News spent under five minutes covering the controversy between Republican Wyoming Senate candidate and former Fox News contributor Liz Cheney and her openly gay sister Mary Cheney over Liz's opposition to marriage equality - significantly less than CNN and MSNBC, who both devoted more than one hour.
In response to Senate Democrats invoking the so-called "nuclear option," right-wing media advanced a number of myths not only about filibuster reform, but about the qualifications of President Obama's nominees who have languished in the confirmation process. What right-wing media have ignored is that Democrats used the "nuclear option" only after unprecedented GOP obstruction prevented Obama's judicial and executive nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.
From the November 17 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:
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Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt dishonestly accused President Obama of invoking slavery in a "blistering attack" against Republicans, ignoring that Obama was actually responding to the inflammatory rhetoric of Affordable Care Act opponents.
On America Live, Stirewalt claimed the president "went out in a blistering attack speech, invoking the Fugitive Slave Act and other things against Republicans yesterday," referring to a September 26 speech Obama gave in support of the health care law.
Later on America Live, Fox News host and media analyst Howard Kurtz similarly said, "In today's media-filled, media-centric world, it almost seems like you've got to ratchet up and talk about terrorism or Nazis or the Slave Act, as the president referenced in his speech in Maryland yesterday, in order to break through." This comes on the heels of the Drudge Report falsely accusing Obama of playing the "slavery card" to promote the law.
But as Time reported, Obama's remarks were in response to the inflammatory rhetoric of the health care law's detractors:
Mocking Republicans for their escalating rhetoric on how dire the health care law will prove to be, Obama said one Republican's assertion that it was the worst law in the nation's history is an awfully tall order. "You had a state representative somewhere say that it's as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act," the president said as the audience booed. "Think about that. Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners [space added] get their runaway slaves back."
Obama was indeed correct -- Bill O'Brien, a Republican representative in New Hampshire's state legislature, compared the law to the Fugitive Slave Act during an Americans for Prosperity rally in August, as reported [space added] by The Wall Street Journal:
The man who charged Mr. Obama with creating a health-care system akin to slavery was Bill O'Brien, a representative in New Hampshire's state legislature and former speaker of the House. In August, Mr. O'Brien spoke at an Americans for Prosperity rally in New Hampshire and likened the Affordable Care Act to an 1850 pro-slavery federal law.
"What is Obamacare?" Mr. O'Brien said his remarks. "It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to federal ... to slave states."
Fox News' Howard Kurtz posed a provocative and very carefully worded question to his panel of media analysts on the September 15 edition of Media Buzz. With the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the attacks in Benghazi so recently behind us, Kurtz asked his guests: "Some media outlets, particularly conservative ones, also made note -- extensive note of the first anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, which also occurred on September 11. Fair enough? Or too much prominence given the magnitude of what happened in 2001?"
"Some media outlets, particularly conservative ones." To what could he possibly have been referring?
Since joining Fox News, Kurtz has been notably reticent to openly criticize the network. Fox News' absurdly politicized and grossly opportunistic Benghazi coverage -- in this past week and the 51 weeks that preceded it -- is as ripe a target for critique as you're going to find and it was clearly on Kurtz's radar, but he deliberately shot wide and gingerly tip-toed around the obvious point to be made.
Kurtz knows how much the network has invested in keeping Benghazi in the news. He was part of the Fox News Sunday panel on September 8 when Karl Rove started literally yelling falsehoods about Benghazi after Juan Williams pointed out that many of the "scandals" surrounding the attack were political hit jobs. Fox News spent the rest of the week banging the Benghazi drums, keeping already debunked Benghazi myths alive and looking for any reason to say the words "Benghazi" and "scandal" on the air. Benghazi even showed up on a Fox News calendar of events "competing for attention," alongside Monday Night Football and the launch of the new iPhone.
But Kurtz is part of the Fox News family now, and while he may feel the urge to criticize the Benghazi coverage coming from his colleagues, he still can't come right out and say it.
When Howard Kurtz joined Fox News as a host and media analyst, he claimed he'd bring to the network an "independent brand of media criticism" with "the freedom to criticize anyone," including his new employer. But a Media Matters analysis of Kurtz's television appearances and online columns during his first two months on the job finds that Kurtz has almost entirely avoided criticizing Fox News, ignoring controversies related to the network that have been widely covered elsewhere. Kurtz even misrepresented his own work, suggesting he had debunked a Fox host's falsehood after that host apologized when Kurtz had actually uncritically promoted it.
Fox News announced in June that the veteran media reporter would join the network on July 1. Kurtz's new weekend media program, MediaBuzz, will debut on September 8 and "focus on the state of the news media in addition to the media's shaping of current events and their role in politics." The show replaces Fox News Watch, a program ridiculed for its conservative slant and habit of turning a blind eye to controversies involving Fox News.
Kurtz made 20 appearances on Fox News, Fox Broadcasting, and Fox Business between his hiring and the release of this report. During these appearances, Kurtz only directly criticized Fox News once -- a tepid reproach about Fox and other networks re-airing Miley Cyrus' performance at MTV's Video Music Awards
Kurtz has also almost entirely avoided criticizing Fox and its personalities in the 17 columns he has written so far for FoxNews.com under the "Media Buzz" masthead.
There have been ample opportunities for such criticism. Kurtz has ignored several media stories related to Fox News that have been widely covered elsewhere, defying the statement he made while working for CNN that he "always" covers controversies related to his employer, and failing to do so signals "a double standard" to viewers that "can undermine your credibility."
While working for CNN, The Washington Post, and The Daily Beast, Kurtz has at times been critical of Fox News and its employees, including several instances where he cited Media Matters. But in his first few months at Fox News, Kurtz seemed more focused on pleasing his new colleagues than being an "independent" media analyst. With the debut of his new program, Kurtz has a chance to prove his independence -- or be just another part of Fox's "defend the family" atmosphere.