Howler of the Day at Salon: Fox News 'Has Become a Stable for Journalists Who Have Fallen on Hard Times'

Before taking a series of cheap shots at Howard Kurtz, the former Daily Beast Washington bureau chief and CNN "Reliable Sources" host who has moved to Fox News to host its "Fox News Watch" program, Salon political reporter Alex Seitz-Wald characterized Kurtz's new employer as "a stable for journalists who have fallen on hard times."

In related news, the New York Yankees and the Miami Heat, respectively, have become basement-dwelling final refuges for baseball and basketball players whose skills have seriously eroded. (/sarcasm).

Seitz-Wald was last seen at NewsBusters peddling the snortworthy assertion that Fox News was almost as negligent in covering the trial of now-convicted infant-killer Kermit Gosnell as the Big Three broadcast networks, and that conservative media in general also mostly ignored the story. Puh-leeze. In his latest exercise in fantasy, the Salon writer claims that, "considering how much there is to criticize about the network," Kurtz has been far too soft on the nation's leading cable news channel (links are in original; bolds and numbered tags are mine):

Howard Kurtz & Fox News: A true love story
The purported media critic has long treated the "fair and balanced" network with awe and romance

Fox News and Howard Kurtz may be a good match not only because the conservative news network has become a stable for journalists who have fallen on hard times, but because the former Daily Beast Washington bureau chief has long been more generous to the network than many of his fellow media critics.

Not surprisingly, Fox has often come in for a drubbing from media watchdogs for its often conservative, narrative-driven news coverage. But Kurtz, while occasionally willing to call foul on Fox, is generally pretty credulous of the cable news channel, defending it during controversies, favorably profiling its personalities, and seemingly overlooking its lapses.

But there’s more.

Kurtz took Sean Hannity’s side [1] in his battle with Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison after the Fox host called the congressman an Islamic “radical” comparable to the Ku Klux Klan; he defended the network after the Shirley Sherrod scandal [2]; downplayed News Corp.’s $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association [3]; favorably profiled anchors Bill Hemmer [4], Shepard Smith [5], and Megyn Kelly [6], along with chieftain Roger Ailes [7]; seemed to take the network’s side in its dispute with former host Glenn Beck; and declared that Karl Rove is “generally fair-minded in his commentary.” [8]

In the early days of the Tea Party rallies in 2009, Kurtz equated “whatever role Fox played in pumping them up” with mainstream reporters who were “late in recognizing the significance of the protests.” Journalists at CNN and MSNBC who “also performed badly on April 15th,” he wrote in a Washington Post Q&A with readers ... [9]

... This isn’t to say Kurtz hasn’t criticized Fox News. He’s had a number of scrapes with the network, especially his made-for-TV feud with Bill O’Reilly that led to an on-air debate in February.

... But considering how much there is to criticize about the network, one might expect more from one of the country’s most prominent media critics — who had a media watchdog TV show on a rival network for years. Perhaps, as some smart liberals like Alyssa Rosenberg and Simon Maloy have written, the move could actually be good for Kurtz and Fox. It could hardly get worse. [10]

(Full disclosure: Yours truly and Kurtz had a bit of a run-in in 2006 which I don't believe colors this post in any way. But I'm reporting it so readers can decide.)

Overall, what Seitz-Wald doesn't get is that what looks "conservative" to him is more often than not "fair and balanced."

But let's hit the specifics:

[1] -- Congressman Keith Ellison is an Islamic radical, and sharia law treatment of non-Muslims is in many ways comparable to the KKK's enforced treatment of Negroes in the South as second-class citizens and even non-citizens. Ellison's "rabid support for the anti-semitic views of Nation of Islam leader Pastor Louis Farrakhan and the late Black Militant leader Khalid Muhammad" definitely qualify him as an Islamic radical.

[2] -- Fox did far better than the broadcast networks and its cable competitors with the Sherrod scandal (wow, Seitz-Wald actually calls it a "scandal"), and was the only network willing to look at how the Sherrods had financially benefitted from a lifetime of racial grievance-mongering. Seitz-Wald also ignores that even the New York Times has acknowledged how the entire Pigford case claiming discrimination against black farmers turned into a fraud magnet, specifically a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms."

[3] -- Washington Post coverage of the story acknowledged that "It is hardly unusual for media companies to support candidates and political parties." No kidding.

[4] -- While noting that Hemmer has "a generally balanced approach, a style he honed in his native Cincinnati and during 10 years at CNN," Kurtz criticized his program because "the bookings on the two-hour program, and sometimes the story selection, tilt markedly to the right." (Of course, that tilt might have a lot to do with the fact that leftists don't like challenging questions coming from fair and balanced journalists.)

[5] -- Shepard Smith leans left. Kurtz noted that obvious fact. What's your problem, Alex?

[6] -- Kelly's sin appears to be having told Fox's Brit Hume during the interview processs that "She came in believing there was a left bias in the news." You don't say?

[7] -- The 2006 Ailes profile has its fair share of criticisms and points to what was then a pretty serious ratings decline.

[8] -- Kurtz had plenty of company in his assessment of Rove: "Slate said the 'mild-mannered' Rove 'has merely offered clarity, concision, humility, good humor, good posture, and dispassionate analysis.' New York Times columnist David Carr called him 'one of the best things on television news right now . . . graceful, careful and generous.'"

[9] -- If anything, Kurtz was being too kind to other journalists, whose hostility to Tea Party activists was already self-evident by that time.

[10] -- Oh, it can get worse, and it has been getting worse -- for Fox's competition:


On Thursday, June 20, Fox's total audience was greater than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined in every measurement: Total Day, Primetime, and every individual 4 p.m. to midnight prime-time slot. As seen above, it had almost 60 percent of the prime-time cable news audience. Ten weeks ago on April 11, another Thursday, Fox "only" had a 48 percent prime-time share.

Sorry, Alex Seitz-Wald. Far from being a place for "journalists who have fallen on hard times," Fox is more likely seen as a place where journalists can feel reasonably assured that if they do fair and balanced work, they'll be able to keep their jobs. At the other three networks, that would seem to be a dubious proposition.

Cross-posted at

Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Labeling Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Online Media Blogs Salon Major Newspapers New York Times Washington Post Alex Seitz-Wald Howard Kurtz