Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz failed to substantively discuss new allegations that Fox's Bill O'Reilly fabricated several details of his reporting career while offering no criticism of the embattled host.
Since the last edition of Fox's weekly media criticism program, MediaBuzz on February 22, O'Reilly has faced cascading allegations that he lied about hearing the suicide of a figure connected to John F. Kennedy's assassination, that he had falsely claimed to have witnessed the execution of nuns in El Salvador, and that he greatly exaggerated a story about being "attacked by protesters" during the L.A. riots.
But during the March 1 edition of MediaBuzz, host Kurtz failed to specifically mention any of these new allegations against O'Reilly and instead vaguely referenced "questions raised by Mother Jones and others about whether he has embellished some of his reporting," describing the allegations as a "flap." The only analysis offered by Kurtz was to read from a portion of an official Fox News statement, saying, "Fox News said in a statement that Bill O'Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him" before adding that "a couple media sites have noted his ratings have actually gone up in this past week, even when not talking about this controversy." He later agreed that not everybody has as large of a platform to defend themselves as O'Reilly does, but offered no criticism of his Fox News colleague:
From the February 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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In September 1992, then-presidential candidate Ross Perot accused two female journalists of "trying to prove their manhood" following a TV segment that was critical of him. Perot, who had previously exited the race only to re-enter it, bristled at the scrutiny and deflected from the substance of the questions raised by whining that the style of the two women associated with the report was inappropriate or unbecoming.
Things have since improved for female TV anchors and journalists, but not nearly as much as they should have considering that criticism still tends to focus on style rather than substance. Today, most use euphemisms like "tone," "pushy," "toughness," or "not pressing enough" to criticize and undermine the credibility of female journalists.
On his February 8th show, Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News' MediaBuzz, actually defended the appalling behavior of Senator and potential 2016 GOP presidential contender Rand Paul, in which he condescended to, shushed, and told a female anchor to "calm down" during an appearance on CNBC. Co-host Kelly Evans was critical in her line of questioning, beginning the interview by asking Senator Paul about comments he'd made in a radio interview with conservative host Laura Ingraham just prior to appearing on CNBC where he said that he believed vaccinations "for the most part...ought to be voluntary."
In his analysis, Kurtz accused Evans of having a "chip on her shoulder" for starting the interview with this question. This, despite the fact that the question on vaccinating children was becoming something of a litmus test for potential GOP 2016 contenders, many of whom spent the week tripping all over themselves to walk the line between public safety, common sense and anti-science rhetoric. Evans actually gave Senator Paul (who is also a physician) the opportunity to clarify his comments, who initially gave a sarcastic non-answer, "I guess being for freedom would be really unusual? I guess I don't understand the point, why that would be controversial." Senator Paul's condescending tone continued from there, scolding Evans several times during the interview. Evans did interrupt as Senator Paul attempted to run down the clock with a classic politician non-answer in response to questions about reports suggesting that the long-term consequences of tax holiday legislation he'd introduced with Senator Barbara Boxer could potentially cost the federal governement money in the long run. Visibly agitated and thrown off his game, Paul resorted to shushing Evans in a manner that I last heard when a friend was trying to quiet her agitated baby. The interview ended with a final scolding from Paul and a respectful apology from Evans.
While many reviews acknowledged Paul's sexist behavior -- Kurtz himself said "shushing a host, especially a woman, did not exactly look gentlemanly" -- the Fox News host nonetheless blamed Evans for aggravating Senator Paul. Kurtz suggested that while the substance of the interview was legitimate, her "tone" was the problem. Kurtz chose not to focus on the behavior of a grown man and potential presidential candidate so quickly thrown off by a legitimate question that he resorted to deflecting by shushing and scolding. Instead, despite Senator Paul's attempt to bully Evans by telling her to calm down and attacking her credibility as a journalist, Kurtz suggested that Evans was the problem, because she "alienated" her guest. What Kurtz didn't acknowledge is that, as reporters are supposed to, Evans was part of advancing the story. The next day, Senator Paul went so far as to release a photo of himself getting a vaccination in an attempt to quell the mess he created with his comments the day before.
Just two months ago, Kurtz and his colleagues at Fox News were among the loudest to complain that the eight non-TV female journalists President Obama called on during his 2014 end of the year press conference actually weren't tough enough. The flutter created throughout Washington, D.C., that a president "only" called on women was insulting and annoying enough. The substance of the press conference ranged from President Obama's newsworthy comments regarding Sony's decision to pull The Interview from theaters, to the fate of the president's legislative agenda, the Keystone XL pipeline, and the beginning of normalizing relations with Cuba. Immediately afterwards, Fox News' White House Correspondent Ed Henry complained about the topics covered and that some of the questions posed by his female colleagues "just didn't press him."
Sexist criticism of the press conference did come from many directions including this tweet from Roger Cohen of the New York Times: "Questions only from women fine but WH might have advised male correspondents they could split on vacation early. #maledowntime."
But it was Kurtz's blog post for Fox News -- titled "Where Were the Tough Questions" -- that was particularly offensive. Kurtz diminished the questions posed by the female reporters, equating their style with substance by suggesting that the press conference was a dud because, "This is not unrelated to the fact that he (President Obama) skipped the front-row TV correspondents--Jonathan Karl, Ed Henry, Major Garrett--who tend to ask more confrontational and, yes, theatrical questions." While suggesting that stylistically TV journalists tend to ask more "theatrical" questions, Kurtz failed to include names of female White House TV correspondents.
While Kurtz criticized these female reporters for not being tough enough and CNBC's Evans for being too tough in her interview with Senator Paul, he thought his Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly got it just right in his contentious 2014 Super Bowl interview with President Obama. O'Reilly continuously interrupted the President of the United States with questions about various debunked Fox conspiracy theories. The Atlantic described it this way: "O'Reilly would ask Obama if he had done something scandalous. Obama would say no, that's just factually wrong. O'Reilly would defend himself, saying he was just asking questions about what many believe. Obama would insist that they only believe it because Fox News treats it as fact. And O'Reilly would insist that he isn't behind it, he's just asking questions."
In defense of O'Reilly, Kurtz said, "Your interview wasn't nasty, it was aggressive ... Sure, you interrupted the president a lot but you had to do that because he's the master at running out the clock with lengthy answers."
In other words, a female reporter has a chip on her shoulder for being aggressive in an interview, while a male reporter is just doing what he had to. Watching Kurtz's defense of Rand Paul's shushing made me think of former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who was reportedly fired in part for being too "pushy."
Kurtz's sexism underscores the trap women face, one that needs to be called out at every turn: it's not about trying to be like men, it's about redefining the way it's done.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:
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From the February 4 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the January 25 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:
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From the January 4 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz:
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From the November 9 edition of Media Buzz:
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From the November 9 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz:
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz echoed his colleague Shepard Smith's admonishment of media for irresponsible Ebola coverage, highlighting his own network's reporting failures.
Kurtz called out media figures like Fox host Bill O'Reilly, who has demanded the resignation of CDC director Tom Frieden, for reducing their response to Ebola "to a question of which heads should roll."
He contrasted coverage like O'Reilly's to that of Fox's Shepard Smith, who made headlines this week for blasting media's "irresponsible" and "hysterical" Ebola coverage. Smith "challenged his own profession to stop scaring people," Kurtz explained, asking, "Will the media listen?"
From Kurtz's October 17 column:
There's a growing media drumbeat on how to fix the Ebola crisis.
Tom Frieden should resign!
[D]oes anyone really believe that turning CDC over to an acting director will quickly boost the agency's performance?
Bill O'Reilly has demanded that Frieden be fired, calling him the "chief propagandist" for the "dumb and dangerous" approach of expecting airport screening to be able to keep infected people out of the United States.
Another doctor, Fox contributor Manny Alvarez, says:
"I am more convinced than ever that CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden is not the right person for the job. And I say this because this latest press conference consisted of him telling a room of reporters what anyone who has ever dealt with Ebola in the past should have known...
"Frieden showed up late to the game again on Ebola, which is not acceptable when lives are at stake."
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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