WaPo's Kurtz Offers Weak Excuses for Van Jones Silence

September 14th, 2009 5:59 PM
When Glenn Beck reports that a top-level White House advisor has endorsed communism, accused 'white polluters' of poisoning minority communities, called his political opponents a**holes, and believes an American president was complicit in the slaughter of innocent civilians, Beck must have a hidden agenda. When the mainstream media fails to report these facts, it's all an honest mistake.

Or so one might gather from listening to CNN contributor and Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz. Kurtz continues to waffle between a cynical take on Glenn Beck's outing of Van Jones as a truther conspiracy theorist, and an apologetic approach to the mainstream media's virtual silence on the story until after Jones's resignation.

The Times's Managing Editor Jill Abramson offered a number of excuses for the lack of Van Jones coverage last weekend, chiefly that the paper's Washington Bureau was short-staffed. This did not stop the Times from sending two reporters to Boston for the weekend to cover the non-story of Joseph Kennedy II's Senate run (which he later said would not happen).

Stories about Diane Sawyer and the Naked Cowboy also took precedence over the Van Jones scoop in the Times's pages.

Two weeks ago, as reported by NewsBusters, Kurtz accused Beck on CNN's "Reliable Sources" of undertaking a personal vendetta against Jones after the then-Green Jobs Czar's former advocacy group, Color of Change, convinced advertisers to drop their support for the Glenn Beck program.

In fact, as NewsBusters also noted, Beck singled out Jones in late July and questioned his eligibility as a White House advisor given his radical past and inflammatory statements. On Sunday's "Reliable Sources," Kurtz told viewers "Beck started attacking Jones before that boycott and I should have made that clear the last time I talked about it on this program."

A guest on Kurtz's program yesterday, Air American National Correspondent Ana Marie Cox, noted that Jones was a "not so lower level" advisor, and told Kurtz "It seems like [the administration] really had no idea this was going to be a problem and that disturbs me more than anything."

But Cox followed up this comment later in the show by claiming that "there's actually not a lot to these allegations" and suggested that the real story for the MSM may have been "how important is this job? Do the past views have any sort of influence on what he's doing now?"

Kurtz continued the waffling in today's Washington Post, where he downplayed Jones's radical past, claiming that the former advisor "embraced communism in the 1990s but said he later changed his views," and "didn't agree" with the 2004 truther petition to which he was a signatory.

And apparently Jones "was sufficiently obscure ... that major news organizations basically ignored him," according to Kurtz, though later in the piece he conceded that "there is little question that the traditional media botched the story."

Kurtz refuses to admit, however, any political agenda on the part of the New York Times, stating that "it is just as likely that their radar malfunctioned, or that they collectively dismissed Beck as a rabble-rouser."

To the first claim, that of the malfunctioning radar, one must wonder how radical and outlandish the statements of a powerful White House official (Jones was, after all, charged with doling out $80 billion in federal funds) must be to show up as a blip on the MSM's sonar.

If Beck was indeed dismissed outright as a "rabble-rouser," the fact says a lot about the inherent biases of the New York Times. Facts are facts no matter who utters them. Shouldn't the Times have at least looked into Beck's claims? That a priori political biases caused the paper to dismiss Beck's claims outright says a lot about which facts it is willing to consider, and which, by virtue of the individual reporting them, are not worth covering.

Kurtz followed his apologia for the MSM with poll numbers showing that only 29 percent of Americans now believe that news organizations "generally get their facts straight." Given the irresponsibly placid reporting on the Van Jones controversy, it should come as little surprise that Americans' disapproval of the mainstream media has reached a 20-year high.