Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News' rebranded media show MediaBuzz, devoted an entire column under the Media Buzz header to describing in detail the Facebook photos of Ben Bradlee's daughter-in-law and her "candid approach to sexual matters."
Ostensibly because August 26 was Washington Post Vice President and former Editor Ben Bradlee's birthday, Kurtz deemed it appropriate to publish an extensive description of photos Bradlee's daughter-in-law Pari Bradlee had posted on her personal Facebook account, asking if one revealing picture went "too far" and claiming the photos revealed her "candid approach to sexual matters":
Her new profile picture, in a Swiss-cheese bra that leaves little to the imagination and long black leather sleeves and briefs, is so revealing that it drew a torrent of breathless comments. In another just-posted photo she is nude, shot from the back, twisting one arm behind her.
Pari Bradlee is a personal trainer and yoga instructor who gives private lessons and whose clients include many Washington A-listers. And she is marketing herself with a combination of Facebook's share-everything ethos and her famous last name.
From one perspective, Pari Bradlee's provocative poses might be viewed as a quick way to grab attention, especially in contrast to Washington's buttoned-down culture.
But she is part of a Facebook generation that lives online (with 1,957 photos in her case) and embraces a more candid approach to sexual matters.
Kurtz also quoted the comments Bradlee's friends had posted on the photos, including that her husband "obviously approve[d]" of the photos since he "liked" one of them, and ended his description of Bradlee's "provocative poses" by noting, "It's a safe bet that she is about to attract a lot more friends."
According to Fox News, Kurtz's new show MediaBuzz will primarily "examine media bias while dissecting news events of the current and previous weeks," and will also "analyze how social media has evolved and the effect it has had throughout the industry, including the stories that are most popular over the various social networks and how pundits use those mediums to deliver their specific narrative."
Kurtz did not address in this column how discussing the sexuality and personal photos of a yoga instructor -- connected to the media "industry" only via her father-in-law -- fell within those parameters.
Fox News' response to the uproar over its religious correspondent's interview with author Reza Aslan is a revealing example of how the network handles criticism by either attacking or ignoring it, and raises questions about how Howard Kurtz, Fox's new media critic, will fit into that pattern.
Aslan, the author of the new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, was the subject of a recent 10-minute interview on FoxNews.com. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat describes the interview and ensuing controversy in today's column:
Those minutes were spent with the interviewer, Lauren Green, asking Aslan to explain why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus -- with Aslan coolly emphasizing his credentials and the non-Islamic nature of his argument -- and then with Green asking variations on the Muslim question, to increasing offense and diminishing returns.
The video quickly went viral, turning Aslan into a culture-war icon, a martyr to Fox's biases ... and soon enough (as these things tend to go) a martyr with a No. 1 best seller.
As Douthat indicates, Fox was widely criticized for the interview, which was one of the major media stories of the week. It seemed like a perfect issue for Kurtz, the network's in-house media critic, to address.
Instead, on July 31, Fox responded to the criticism by hosting conservative activist and media critic Brent Bozell to defend the interview on the network's America Live. Bozell declared, "I'll be the first one to stand up and applaud Lauren Green for the question that she asked. It was the exact, correct question that needed to be asked." He went on to criticize Aslan's response to Green's suggestion of religious bias -- that he's a scholar of religions and his job is to write about religion -- as arrogant.
Some noted that rather than bringing in Bozell to discuss the controversial interview, Fox could have called on Kurtz. "Fox News has a media critic on its payroll, but Howard Kurtz was apparently unavailable," reported Huffington Post's Jack Mirkinson.
On Twitter, Politico media reporter Dylan Byers wrote that Kurtz responding to the Aslan interview would be a "pretty good test for his independence," but that he didn't think it would happen. Indeed, Kurtz, who said he was "excited to bring my independent brand of media criticism to Fox News" when he moved to the network after 15 years at CNN, has not weighed in on the Aslan controversy. On Sunday he appeared on the panel of Fox News Sunday to discuss a variety of political topics, but did not mention Aslan.
Meanwhile, the August 3 edition of Fox's current weekly media criticism show, Fox News Watch, did not address the Aslan interview. That program has consistently downplayed or ignored stories that are unfavorable to Fox News and its parent company.
Fox News Watch will soon be replaced with a new media criticism program hosted by Kurtz. But so far, we've seen little evidence that the new program will adopt a different tact on criticizing the network than the current iteration.
Back when it was announced that media reporter Howard Kurtz was jumping ship from CNN to Fox News, Kurtz used his final appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources to assure everyone watching that just because he was moving to Fox News didn't mean he would abandon his "independent brand of media criticism." Well, Kurtz is now getting into the swing of being the media critic at a network that famously refuses to entertain any self-criticism, and so far his claims to remain "independent" aren't quite shaping up.
Kurtz appeared on Fox News four times on July 15 to talk about the media coverage of the verdict George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin murder trial. The segment below, from Special Report, is representative of all four: criticism of MSNBC and Al Sharpton, criticism of NBC's misleading editing of Zimmerman's 911 call, and highlighting some inflammatory tweets from professional athletes.
Except for the whack at Ted Nugent, there apparently weren't any conservative media figures who merited inclusion, and certainly none from Fox News. "All the media speculation about whether George Zimmerman's acquittal would lead to violent demonstrations turned out to be mostly wrong," Kurtz observed, without noting that much of that speculation originated from his new network colleagues. "So if the prosecution did present a weak case," Bill O'Reilly asked on July 8, "and he does get acquitted... are you expecting people to run out and cause trouble?" Geraldo Rivera is determined to say as many inflammatory and ugly things as he can about Trayvon Martin. Kurtz gave all of it a pass.
In his final edition of CNN's Reliable Sources before moving to host a media criticism show on Fox News, Howard Kurtz praised Fox's "call for balance" in covering the Supreme Court's rulings on marriage equality, which he contrasted with the rest of the media "rooting for" equality.
Kurtz's new Fox News program will replace Fox News Watch, the network's media criticism show which followed a regular pattern of attacking the "liberal bias" of the press while praising Fox coverage and ignoring stories that reflected badly on Fox or its parent company. Kurtz himself has at times been harshly critical of Fox, while maintaining a close relationship with its president Roger Ailes and defending the network from allegations of bias.
Kurtz opened his final CNN show by stating that when "the Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings boosting same-sex marriage, the only real question was how far the media would go in treating it as a victory." He questioned whether journalists are "being fair to the other side of this emotional debate." Later in the segment, he called the media's tone "strikingly upbeat" and questioned whether they were "rooting for what was framed as a victory for gay rights," airing clips from ABC, CNN, and MSNBC to make his point.
But there was outlet that came in for Kurtz's praise: Fox News. Kurtz said that on his new employer's airwaves, "there were few outright denunciations of the rulings, but there was a call for balance," airing a clip of Fox News' Laura Ingraham saying that she wanted to make sure that "both sides can be heard without people who believe in traditional marriage being branded as intolerant or anti-gay."
Though Fox News was effusive in its praise of new hire Howard Kurtz, several of the network's hosts and contributors have harshly criticized Kurtz in the past, labeling him "full of crap," "a walking conflict of interest," and someone who does "the bidding of Media Matters."
In a June 20 press release, Fox announced that beginning July 1, Kurtz "will anchor a version of what is now called Fox News Watch, which focuses on the media, with a new format during the weekends," while also serving as an on-air analyst and writer for FoxNews.com. His switch to Fox will mark the end of his tenure at CNN's Reliable Sources, a weekly media criticism show that he has hosted for the past 15 years.
Fox News earlier today announced the hiring of CNN media reporter Howard Kurtz. In a press release announcing the move, Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente labeled Kurtz "the most accomplished media reporter in the country." But not everyone at the network is as enamored with Kurtz.
In April, Kurtz criticized Fox News for airing an interview of George W. Bush by his former press secretary (and current Fox employee) Dana Perino. Hannity responded by lashing out at the "liberal" Kurtz and referring to his long-running CNN program Reliable Sources as "Unreliable Liberal Sources." He continued: "I don't like him. He's full of crap. He thinks he's a sanctimonious, self-righteous, phony establishment journalist."
HANNITY: And then you got this liberal Howie Kurtz, he has the show "Unreliable Liberal Sources," he got demoted and kicked out of the Washington Post, and critical of you, I mean --
PERINO: I was a little bit surprised by the criticism because I think I've always been really nice to Howie --
HANNITY: He's a nitwit.
PERINO: I like him very much.
HANNITY: I don't like him. He's full of crap. He thinks he's a sanctimonious, self-righteous, phony establishment journalist.
PERINO: Are you defending me or wanted to --
HANNITY: I'm defending you over him.
CNN's longtime media reporter, Howard Kurtz, is moving to Fox News. As first reported by Mediaite and subsequently confirmed by the network itself, Kurtz will be taking over the spot currently occupied by Fox News' weekend media criticism program, Fox News Watch. The move comes after reports that CNN was "reviewing" Kurtz's "status at the network" after he was dropped by The Daily Beast following an erroneous and much-criticized column on NBA player Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay. Per Mediaite, "Jon Scott, the current anchor of Fox News Watch, will move to the specials unit, serving as an anchor for that programming."
Regardless of your opinion of Kurtz, the mere fact that Scott is out as Fox News' in-house media critic can't be viewed as anything but a positive development. Fox News Watch was once considered one of Fox News' best and most balanced programs. Under Scott's tenure, the show became a parody of a media criticism program, mechanically framing segments around the "liberal bias" of the press and featuring panels of (overwhelmingly conservative) guests to complain about the "liberal media." One of the program's recurring guests has been Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter best known for her disastrously inaccurate reporting on Saddam Hussein's (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction.
More than anything else, Fox News Watch became a propaganda tool for the network. Any time Fox News or its parent company, News Corp., found itself in the headlines for ethical lapses or bad media practices, Fox News Watch would ignore the story. In 2011, when the scandal over phone hacking at News Corp.'s News Of The World was blowing up, Jon Scott and his Fox News Watch panelists were filmed discussing how they were purposefully not talking about it. When it was revealed that News Corp. had donated millions of dollars to pro-Republican political groups ahead of the 2010 election, Fox News Watch didn't say a word. In late 2012, after national security journalist Tom Ricks caused a huge stir by saying on Fox News that the network was "operating as a wing of the Republican Party" with regard to its Benghazi coverage, Fox News Watch ignored the story -- a fact that's even more remarkable when you consider that the person interviewing Ricks when he made that comment was... Jon Scott.
From the May 19 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the April 28 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Fox News' media criticism program continued the network's promotion of Zev Chafets' biography of Fox News president Roger Ailes, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, with a segment that did not examine or discuss the book's substance. Instead, Fox News Watch re-ran a friendly interview with Chafets and attacked critics of Ailes.
On the March 23 edition of Fox News Watch, anchor Jon Scott remarked that the book was getting "lots of media attention." Scott then defended Ailes' claim that President Obama described himself as "lazy," a misrepresentation of Obama's remarks.
From the March 24 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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CNN's Howard Kurtz is running to the defense of Fox News, accusing President Obama of "whining" that the organization prevents Republicans from engaging in bipartisanship, while ignoring the actual history of Fox News preventing Republicans from engaging in bipartisanship.
In a February 4 Daily Download post, Kurtz lamented what he called "the whining" about Fox News and the conservative echo chamber, including from President Obama. Kurtz added:
Now it's true that Fox or Rush can boost or batter any lawmaker, and that they can help drive a controversy into the broader mainstream media. But we're talking here about the president of the United States. He has an army, a navy and a bunch of nuclear weapons, not to mention an ability to command the airwaves at a moment's notice. And he's complaining about a cable channel and a radio talk show host?
Kurtz's post echoed an earlier criticism he made of Obama, on CNN's Reliable Sources. During the show, Kurtz questioned if Obama was overstating Fox's role, pointing to the president's comments in The New Republic where he claimed that "if a Republican member of Congress is not punished by Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it." Kurtz asked if there was "any possibility that President Obama thinks that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have more influence than they actually have" and pressing them to identify Fox's influence.
But it's not just Obama who says that Fox prevents Republicans from compromising - Republicans themselves have acknowledged the role Fox plays in politics. In a December 2012 New York Times article, former Republican Rep. Tom Davis (VA) explained that Republicans might resist compromise on raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans despite the popularity of the measure, in part because of Fox News. The Times reported: "Reaction from the conservative news media poses another risk if Republicans compromise. 'How does Fox play this?' asked former Representative Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican and former chairman of his party's campaign committee."
Additionally, in 2010, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reported that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) advocated in favor of climate change legislation early in the year, but warned his Democratic colleagues to "get as far as they could in negotiating the bill 'before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process.'"
From the January 27 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the November 21 edition of CNN's Starting Point:
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From the October 7 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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