I've got to wonder if CNN's Howard Kurtz has ever once asked if the media was spending too much time focusing on a story that's bad for Democrats. From this Sunday's Reliable Sources, Kurtz asks his panel if the media has been intentionally trying to keep the Todd Akin story alive and to their credit, he can't get a single one of them to agree with him that the story didn't deserve the amount of air time it got.
He couldn't get any of them to agree that it's biased to talk about the fact that the Republicans policies are very hostile to women, or that it wasn't perfectly fair to bring their vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's views into the debate either. Sorry to disappoint you Howie, but sometimes the facts just happen to have a liberal bias and all the concern trolling by you for Republicans isn't going to change that.
And it's not the "liberal media" that threw Akin under the bus when this happened and demanded he get out of the race. That would be the Republican establishment and their allies in the media and right wing blogs that were responsible for that and for keeping the story alive as well. I don't believe there's a chance in hell if the tables were turned and this was a Democrat getting thrown under the bus for something they said that Kurtz would be saying one word about the amount of media coverage the story received.
When you can't even get any of your fellow Villagers to agree with you, it's time to hang it up Howie.
Transcript below the fold.
KURTZ: From the moment that Todd Akin talked about "legitimate rape" and how rape victims could somehow will their bodies not to get pregnant, those outrageous remarks were a huge story and rightly snow.
The Senate candidate from Missouri apologized but journalists continued to press him hard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You're a member the House Science Committee. A lot of people are wondering how an idea like that could even get in your head?
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: Well, that's a -- the point of the matter is, is that, yes, pregnancy can happen as a result of rape. I understand that. And I've acknowledged that facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Akin had few defenders, even at FOX where Sean Hannity pushed the Republican nominee to quit the race during an interview on his radio show.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, SEAN HANNITY SHOW: If you become a distraction for the next 77 days, which can happen and keep Claire McCaskill and Obama from addressing their failed economic policies, I wouldn't want that on my conscience. Have you thought about that?
AKIN: I've given all the things that you said a lot of consideration.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KURTZ: And it wasn't long before the press and particular liberal commentators made the rape uproar an issue in the presidential race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: There's very little daylight between what Akin and Paul Ryan believe, as I just said. Ryan and the other Republicans are just smarter about the way they talk about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Nia-Malika Henderson, credible story involving Todd Akin. But day after day after day, this rape story was on the front page, top of the newscast. Did you get the impression the media are trying to keep it alive?
HENDERSON: No. I think it was a legitimate story. I mean, you have a sitting congressman talking about rape. Then he was of course in this very contested seat in Missouri. The balance of the Senate in -- you know, hangs in the balance with his seat.
So, I think it was a legitimate story. I think, again, we're going to shift to the RNC at this point unless Todd Akin comes and stages some protest down here. I don't think people will be talking about it.
The fact that Huckabee who in some ways was his big defender might not be on stage is probably a good thing in terms of the Republicans trying to get past this story.
KURTZ: But at the same time, Lauren Ashburn, the press it seemed to me made some attempt to bring Paul Ryan into the story because of Ryan and Akin sharing the same position on the question of abortion and rape, talking about that.
ASHBURN: And that was a legitimate connection to make because they had sponsored a bill together, and in all fairness --
KURTZ: Bill together that had no exception for rape, ban abortion --
ASHBURN: Ban abortion, right.
KURTZ: No exception for rape.
KURTZ: But Paul Ryan didn't make those remarks about --
ASHBURN: No, but I want to know where Paul Ryan stands, who's with him, who's supporting him. And I think -- I went in to journalism because I wanted to keep the government honest, and I wanted to report on politicians. And that's what that is. And yes, it is fair.
KURTZ: Is there some attempt here by the media, consciously or unconsciously I should say, Roger Simon, to cast the GOP as a party, large elements of which are indifferent to rape?
SIMON: I think all of this is part of what the Democrats would call the Republican war on women, which has been going on for a long time. And I think the media think that it's a legitimate story.
KURTZ: So the media buy the Democratic attack line of Republican war on women, which is a very --
SIMON: Parts of it --
KURTZ: Parts of it?
SIMON: Parts of it.
KURTZ: And that's not biased in your view?
SIMON: I don't think they buy the conclusion. They buy it as a legitimate story to explore. And given that there are more women voters than men voters, it's an important dynamic in this election.
And the Ryan story is perfectly legitimate. Here's a guy who's been in legislative posts his entire life, he -- he makes laws. He's a lawmaker. He believes this stuff.
And if the public can't focus on that, then there's no purpose to news.
KURTZ: Now, Todd Akin, after he apologized, Lynn Sweet, blamed the liberal media for trying to drive him out of the race.
SWEET: I think that's nonsense. What happened is that he had -- to use our weather metaphor -- a perfect storm. Not only did he say something that would have been controversial anyway, and as you know in the original interview, the host doing the interview didn't follow up, didn't apparently do a story on it.
The story was brought out because Democratic allied trackers would see it and then pushed it out. So that's how it got out there. And that's a legitimate form of inquiry.
But the reason it had so many legs, it's not only who said it, which would have gotten maybe just localized attention. He's in a big battleground state. He does have connections to Paul Ryan. And then the presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, called for him to step down.
KURTZ: The Missouri talk show host, Charles Jacko, incredibly did not follow up on these remarks and he said later he just was too focused on getting to the next question. He said he had a brain fart, using his phrase.
But now other people waded into this, "Politico", David Catanese reported there, tweeted that he felt the congressman had misspoke. Then he was taken off the story. Was that too harsh a reaction for a single tweet?
HENDERSON: You know, this is the danger of tweeting and not thinking or tweeting while drunk or something. But I -- it was a very odd tweet. I know we covered it at "The Post." I don't know what has -- what other sort of sanctions he's had at "Politico."
But it seemed about right that he's wading in and seeming to give his opinion on this. That I --
KURTZ: Taking a side on whether or not the congressman --
HENDERSON: Taking a side.
KURTZ: It didn't seem like something that Akin blurted out and didn't mean those words.
HENDERSON: Right. Yes.
KURTZ: He obviously believed it when he said it.
HENDERSON: He believed it when he said it. He sort of said this is what doctors, he'd read from doctors. So, he believed it when he said it. So, to sort of step back and say what he really meant was this, I thought was a bit much for Catanese to do that. And probably right for "Politico" to take him off the story.
SWEET: Because -- what the congressman said, remember, it wasn't one thing, it was two things. One, quote, "legitimate rape," unquote, what's that, and that a woman can't get pregnant as a result of it? So, we have two issues here.
SWEET: That's why saying somebody misspoke is -- is -- that's why we're discussing it, because there were two things also, not just one.