You know that you’ve reached new lows in stupidity when you make it necessary to defend CNN/Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz. But Noel Sheppard, NewsBusters’ Associate Editor, can hang his head in pride at having achieved just that feat.
In an article “analyzing” a segment of Kurtz’s Reliable Sources, Sheppard manages to demonstrate an astonishingly deficient ability to comprehend simple English. In this segment Kurtz correctly criticized Fox News in general, and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity in particular, for falsely asserting that Democratic Delaware senatorial candidate Chris Coons had “admitted” to being a Marxist. The basis for the assertion was this excerpt from an article Coons wrote 25 years ago in college:
“I spent the spring of my junior year in Africa on the St. Lawrence Kenya Study Program. Going to Kenya was one of the few real decisions I have made; my friends, family, and professors all advised against it, but I went anyway, My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe a strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear thinking Americans and sends back Bearded Marxists.”
It’s plain from reading this that it was Coons’ friends who raised the subject of his being a Marxist, and even that was clearly stated to be a joke. There is nothing there resembling an admission of Marxism, and there is no way a person with a functioning cerebrum could arrive at that interpretation. Which neatly explains how Beck and Hannity managed to do so. Kurtz, for whom I rarely find anything worthy of commendation, deserves credit for calling out the pair of Fox News hacks for their blatant and deliberate deceit.
Here’s where NewsBusters steps in to lather themselves in shame. Sheppard begins with an inquiry as to why Kurtz didn’t mention a previous article that appeared in Politico and referenced the Coons article. Sheppard asks…
“Why didn’t Kurtz scold Politico? After all, [Politico author Alex] Isenstadt appears to be the first national reporter to bring this article to light.”
The answer, of course, is that Isenstadt never alleged that Coons confessed to being a Marxist. There is nothing wrong with drawing attention to prior writings by political candidates. The problem comes when someone dishonestly portrays the contents of it, as Beck and Hannity did. Isenstadt didn’t do that so there was no reason for Kurtz to scold him.
Next Sheppard quotes a line from Isenstadt’s article that cites Coons’ campaign spokesman calling the “bearded Marxist” reference a joke. Sheppard then asks…
“Is this where Kurtz got the idea that the whole article was a joke? From Coons’s campaign spokesman? That doesn’t seem like good journalism, does it?”
Sheppard wouldn’t know good journalism if it reached out of his monitor and slapped him. The first idiotic hokum in this question is the premise that Kurtz held that “the whole article” was a joke. Kurtz never said that, nor did Coons or his spokesman. But where Sheppard goes off the rails is by suggesting that Kurtz got the idea that it was a joke from the campaign spokesman’s comment rather than from the actual text of Coons’ article that said explicitly, “My friends now joke that…” It was right there in black and white, in the original article, that Kurtz, and everyone else who can read, got the idea that it was a joke. It couldn’t be more clear if you pasted a picture of Henny Youngman above it. I guess it’s that clarity that accompanies reality that confused Sheppard.
And yet Sheppard persists in making a fool of himself. He concludes his analysis by complaining that Kurtz has a double standard because he criticized the coverage of Coons but not that of his GOP opponent, Christine O’Donnell. However, Kurtz was criticizing the Coons coverage because it was wrong. The coverage of O’Donnell was merely replaying video of her own performance on television. Nobody mischaracterized what she said, they just broadcast it as it was. If there was something wrong with it, even Sheppard didn’t bother to point it out. But he did take one more swing at the debunked smear that Coons was a self-avowed Marxist:
“As such, an autobiographical article by Coons in which he referred to himself as a bearded Marxist is all a joke while comments O’Donnell made concerning her religious faith are somehow relevant to this campaign.”
Once again, Coons did not refer to himself as a “bearded Marxist,” and his friends who did so were joking. And both candidates’ histories are relevant to the campaign, but they must be presented accurately. Unfortunately, Sheppard prefers the lying gasbag approach.
On a separate matter from the same program, Kurtz earned himself another commendation by calling out his own network, CNN. They declined to broadcast a story of war atrocities by Michael Ware due to graphic imagery. Kurtz observed that a story of this importance should still have been aired, and if the images were deemed too disturbing they could have simply left them out of the broadcast. He also took the network to task for refusing to make anyone available to discuss the matter. Kurtz deserves credit for that position. I hope we see more of this sort of media criticism going forward, but I’m just a cockeyed optimist.