When it comes to broadcast media, it’s increasingly common for networks to move away from hiring journalists to offer analysis and commentary, and
March 17, 2008

When it comes to broadcast media, it’s increasingly common for networks to move away from hiring journalists to offer analysis and commentary, and towards professionals from the industry itself. In the world of sports, that means putting retired athletes in the booth instead of journalists or professional broadcasters. In the world of politics, that means Karl Rove can be the Republicans’ leading strategist one week, and a media professional the next.

In Rove’s case, this was especially jarring, given his role in various criminal scandals, his unchallenged record of dishonesty, and his general disdain for reporters’ questions during his political career. Most observers came to think of Rove as something of a malignant force in American politics.

So, naturally, Rove parlayed his career into becoming an analyst for Fox News, and a contributing columnist to Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. What’s especially strange now, however, is seeing Rove’s new colleagues in the media praise his transition. The WaPo’s Howard Kurtz wrote today on Rove’s “second act.”

Karl Rove, who has spent his career denigrating Democrats, was on the Fox News set last Monday when he was asked a point-blank question: Should Eliot Spitzer resign?

Pronouncing the situation “very sad,” Rove said he wasn’t in the business of telling the New York governor what to do. He deflected a question about whether Republicans are held to a different standard than Democrats in sex scandals, saying Spitzer’s problem was that he “made his reputation as a prosecutor” whose targets included prostitution rings.

No one would accuse the newly minted pundit of being balanced, but to the surprise of some critics, he has been generally fair-minded in his commentary. The man long derided by the left as “Bush’s brain” is trying to move beyond his attack-dog reputation.

As it turns out, Kurtz isn’t the only one saying this.

Kurtz also noted that 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.”

Maybe Rove is benefitting from the soft bigotry of low expectations? Looking over Rove’s recent history, as scrutinized by my friends at Media Matters, his burgeoning career as a media professional seems to be off to an inauspicious start.

* On March 2, Rove went after Obama, arguing that the senator hadn’t commented on support he’d received from Louis Farrakhan. The truth, however, was the exact opposite.

* The same day, Rove suggested that Obama may withdraw U.S. funding for Israel. It was a baseless charge, with no foundation in reality, and completely at odds with Obama’s record.

* On March 5, Rove accused Obama of changing his position on NAFTA, but the charge didn’t withstand scrutiny.

* And in February, Rove went after Obama on the silly National Journal rankings.

In each instance, as far as I can tell, Rove made no effort to offer his audience corrections or clarifications.

Rove is many things, but a “fair-minded” media professional? It seems like a stretch.

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