Howard Kurtz Scolds Media Treating Trump Racist Label as Fact

Appearing on America’s Newsroom Tuesday morning, Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz took the liberal media to task for matter-of-factly declaring President Trump to be a racist following his controversial tweets attacking left-wing members of Congress. Kurtz cautioned his press colleagues against claiming to know the motivations of the President.

After playing a montage of CBS’s Norah O’Donnell, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, CNN’s Kate Bolduan, and MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace all insisting that Trump’s incendiary social media posts were motivated by racism, anchor Bill Hemmer observed: “So there is a sample of the reaction from Monday. Mainstream media for the most part not mincing words, calling tweets targeting four women of color by President Trump racist.”

 

 

Kurtz saw major problems with the tone of the supposedly objective news coverage:

There has been thunderous media condemnation of President Trump’s attacks on these four freshmen....As far as the straight news people, most of those were anchors that you showed. Many, many outlets have just skipped the “critics say” part and they say “racist attacks,” “racist tweets.” I think a better approach is for journalists – and I’m not defending the tweets by the way – is to lay it out, but not say it’s racist because that goes to motive. You’re saying in his heart he’s a racist.

Anchoring her inaugural broadcast of CBS Evening News Monday night, Norah O’Donnell wasted no time using the program to savage the President over his “racist tweets.” ABC’s World News Tonight similarly asserted directly that Trump was “racist.” As Kurtz noted, none of those reports framed it as “critics say” or “Democrats accuse” the President of racism.

On Tuesday, Hemmer read a statement from Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron justifying the liberal paper’s decision to call Trump racist:

The Post has initially been cautious in the terminology it uses to characterize individuals’ statements, because a news organization’s job is to inform its reader as dispassionately as possible. The ‘go back’ trope is deeply rooted in the history of racism in the United States. Therefore, we have concluded that ‘racist’ is the proper term to apply to the language he used on Sunday.

While Kurtz admitted that “I understand their reasoning,” he continued to urge journalists to resist that impulse:

...people are smart enough to make up their minds for themselves, they don’t have to – since the President denies any racist intent, and people can accept or dismiss that. It’s fine to say “racially-charged,” “incendiary,” “divisive,” all of those are fine. But I don’t think the media have to go so far as to say, “We don’t believe the President, we think it’s racist.” Opinion people can do that, I think news organizations need to be more cautious.

While Kurtz was preaching media restraint and responsible reporting, CNN’s media analyst and Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter was demanding the press call Trump a racist more regularly.

Here is a transcript of the July 16 exchange between Hemmer and Kurtz:

9:45 AM ET

NORAH O’DONNELL [CBS EVENING NEWS]: Four Democratic congresswomen of color have just spoken publicly as a group for the first time about the racist tweets aimed at them by the President of the United States.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS [ABC’S GOOD MORNING AMERICA]: President Trump sparked a storm of outrage after a series of racist tweets targeting members of Congress who are women of color.

KATE BOLDUAN [CNN’S AT THIS HOUR]: Yesterday, the president unleashed a racist outburst of tweets attacking four Democratic congresswomen of color.

NICOLLE WALLACE [MSNBC’S DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE]: They serve as ugly reminders of Donald Trump’s xenophobia, misogyny, and racism.

BILL HEMMER: So there is a sample of the reaction from Monday. Mainstream media for the most part not mincing words, calling tweets targeting four women of color by President Trump racist. Howie Kurtz, Fox News media analyst, host of MediaBuzz, been watching a lot of this. Howie, good morning to you.

HOWARD KURTZ: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: Go ahead and lay it on us. What is your observation of the coverage?

KURTZ: There has been thunderous media condemnation of President Trump’s attacks on these four freshmen, as he knew there would be, as he actually wanted, in my view, because he gets the Democrats to defend the four freshmen and then he can argue they are siding with women who he calls socialists who hate America.

As far as the straight news people, most of those were anchors that you showed. Many, many outlets have just skipped the “critics say” part and they say “racist attacks,” “racist tweets.” I think a better approach is for journalists – and I’m not defending the tweets by the way – is to lay it out, but not say it’s racist because that goes to motive. You’re saying in his heart he’s a racist. I prefer the way that our John Roberts did it at the White House when he said to the President, “Does it concern you that these tweets are seen as racist and are being embraced by white nationalists?”

HEMMER: Okay, here’s something. Washington Post executive editor, I’ll read it for you, “The Post has initially been cautious in the terminology it uses to characterize individuals’ statements, because a news organization’s job is to inform its reader as dispassionately as possible. The ‘go back’ trope is deeply rooted in the history of racism in the United States. Therefore, we have concluded that ‘racist’ is the proper term to apply to the language he used on Sunday.” Answer that and I’ve got a few more for you, Howie.

KURTZ: Okay, well, I understand that argument. And so The Washington Post flipped after executive editor Marty Baron reached that conclusion with his editors. Look, it is close enough to the old “Go back to Africa” slurs that were hurled at black people for decades, that I understand their reasoning, but, people are smart enough to make up their minds for themselves, they don’t have to – since the President denies any racist intent, and people can accept or dismiss that. It’s fine to say “racially-charged,” “incendiary,” “divisive,” all of those are fine. But I don’t think the media have to go so far as to say, “We don’t believe the President, we think it’s racist.” Opinion people can do that, I think news organizations need to be more cautious.

(...)

NB Daily Media Bias Debate Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Racism Fox News Channel Video Howard Kurtz Bill Hemmer Donald Trump

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