Howard Kurtz, the Fox News analyst and the host of its "Media Buzz" program, made a few pertinent observations in a column about Victor Paul Alvarez's astonishingly crass attempt at humor at Boston.com earlier this week. That said, Kurtz should have criticized the web site and its parent, the Boston Globe, for its completely unsatisfactory explanation for the one "correction" it made to Alvarez's piece.
Alvarez somehow thought it was a great idea to make light of a potential assassin's plan to kill House Speaker John Boehner by poisoning a drink, using that news as a jumping-off point to get into the GOP leader's alleged drinking habits. As Jack Coleman at NewsBusters noted on Friday, Boston.com fired Alvarez shortly after his horrid piece appeared. Video and excerpts from Kurtz's column follow the jump.
First, the video:
Pull quotes from the video (bolds are mine throughout this post):
- "This one is in a class by itself."
- "This is hateful. This is bile. This is sickening. How does this sort of thing get published?"
- "(Boston.com) apologized to Boeher's office, I should add, after the Speaker's office complained about it."
- "You have to ask, would anything like that be written by any web site affiliated with the Boston Globe if it was aimed at a Democrat? Or does this reinforce what a lot of people think about the mainstream media, which is (that) journalists secretly can't stand Republicans and like going after them, and wish for bad things to happen to them?"
- "For every reporter who tries to do his or her job fairly, this tarnishes them all, and it tarnishes all of us."
- "It's really hard to imagine how any sensitive human being thought that was funny."
As to Kurtz's two questions in the fourth bullet above, the answers are "no" and "yes, with good reason."
Now to Kurtz's column, which recognizes that Boston.com later decided to keep the story up, and posted an accompanying mea culpa:
A firing offense: Boston Globe mocks Boehner assassination plot
Here’s the editor’s note posted on the website:
“Last night, an opinion piece was published on Boston.com that has since been adjusted to what you’ll see below. The original column made references to Speaker Boehner that were off-color and completely inappropriate. It reflected the opinions of one of our writers; what it did not reflect, by any standards, were the site’s collective values. Rather than remove any reference to it or pretend it didn’t happen, we are handling with transparency and self-awareness. We are sorry, and we will do better. --Corey Gottlieb, General Manager, Boston.com.”
Mike Sheehan, chief executive of Boston Globe Media Partners, told his paper: “It’s very difficult to hit the epicenter of tasteless, mean-spirited, and humorless in one fell swoop.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I don’t understand how a journalist thinks that or writes it, and how a major-league news outlet allows it to be posted without somebody raising a red flag.
... The Boehner blunder is more than an embarrassment. It’s a window into a media mindset that is very ugly indeed.
I suspect that Kurtz's final-paragraph reference to a "media mindset," given his previous experience at the Washington Post and CNN, comes from direct exposure to it.
The one remaining error for which Boston.com is in my view getting an unwarranted pass relates to its "correction."
Before the mea culpa noted above, the web site removed (and has not restored) the following sentence:
Had he (Boehner) been poisoned as planned, perhaps his pickled liver could have filtered out the toxins.
Boston.com's correction says the following:
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article made an unsubstantiated reference to the health of Speaker Boehner.
As I noted on Wednesday in my original post about Alvarez's column:
What really happened is that a previous version of that article had a contemptible, sick attempt at a joke which speculated about what might have happened had Hoyt been able to serve the current Speaker of the House a poisoned drink.
Given the web site's failure to responsibly and correctly describe what it had removed, you'll have to excuse me for being skeptical about the sincerity of its act of contrition.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.