Howard Kurtz has a new book out, called “Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth.” Clearly, it’s a book designed to appeal to Trump supporters. Or at least “liberal media” haters. But a book review by Jonathan Chait in New York suggests the book says more about Kurtz than the media.
One look at its description on Amazon (you’re welcome, Howard) and you can see that it’s geared for the Fox News set.
According to the media, Donald Trump could never become president. Now many are on a mission to prove he shouldn’t be president. The Trump administration and the press are at war―and as in any war, the first casualty has been truth.
What is that “dead” truth? Amazon’s blurb promises that Media Madness will reveal (among other things):
- Why White House strategist Steve Bannon told Trump he is in danger of being impeached
- How the love-hate relationship between the president and Morning Joe hosts―Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski―turned entirely to hate
- How Kellyanne Conway felt betrayed by journalists who befriended her―and how she fought back
- How elite, mainstream news reporters―named and quoted―openly express their blatant contempt for Trump
In other words, Kurtz seems to be longing for ways to “objectively” report that the media is just so unfair to Trump in a book that just so happens to satisfy his employer and its Fan-in-Chief.
Chait explains just how disingenuous (if not downright dishonest) and, ultimately, self-serving Kurtz’s “objectivity” is:
Kurtz had been a somewhat right-leaning journalist for CNN and the Daily Beast. In 2013, Kurtz was fired from the Daily Beast for what editor Tina Brown called “serial inaccuracy.” That same year he moved to Fox News. In Kurtz’s telling, his unmitigated embrace of the right-wing line is one he arrived at sadly and reluctantly. “The last two years have radicalized me. I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness,” he tells his readers. “These are not easy words for me to write.” Luckily for Kurtz, his radicalization happens to dovetail with his change of employer. Indeed, it is a prerequisite for retaining his Fox News salary. Perhaps that makes it a little easier for him to write those words.
Given how many stories have been written about Trump, statistics would suggest it should be easy to produce a fair number that clearly indicate bias. Kurtz nevertheless fails to produce them. There is only one nugget of original reporting to bolster Kurtz’s accusation, and it is almost certainly false. Citing a Republican official, he claims New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin cursed out Trump as “racist and fascist” in a private conversation. Martin (who previously worked for National Review) vociferously denies that this occurred. Kurtz conjures the image of reporters celebrating openly at the travails of Steve Bannon — they “practically broke into cheers” and then, three pages later, were “practically high-fiving.” These imagined acts of bias have to substitute for his inability to describe actual ones.
Kurtz’s attacks on Trump’s media coverage sound like Fox News 101:
Kurtz flays the media for reporting events he believes were unfounded, such as that Trump “allegedly mocked a disabled New York Times reporter.” (There is video.) “There was still no firm evidence,” he asserts, “that the Trump campaign had ‘colluded’ with the Russians.” Among other things, Trump’s adviser Roger Stone appeared to have advance warning of WikiLeaks email dumps, and several of his top officials had met in Trump Tower with a Russian said to be promising “dirt” on his opponent. Jared Kushner had been treated as the object of suspicion, Kurtz complains, “without any evidence of wrongdoing on his part.” That evidence of wrongdoing would include omitting multiple contacts with Russians on his disclosure forms, maintaining business interests from which he could profit through his role as Trump adviser, and setting up a secret back channel to communicate with Russia during the transition that he hid from American intelligence.
Chait includes many terrific examples of Kurtz failing to live up to his own mission in the book. But this passage is especially revealing:
[T]he daily barrage of reports of internal dysfunction in the incoming Trump administration is conveyed thus: “[U]nnamed aides were out for themselves rather than worrying about what was best for the president-elect.” (Kurtz is a journalist who believes the public should know less.) Because of their selfishness, “what emerged was a portrait of a dysfunctional operation, which happened to jibe with the media’s predominant view that Trump knew next to nothing about running a government.” Kurtz blames leakers and reporters without actually disputing the accuracy of these reports.
Kurtz seems to be looking for ways to discredit coverage of Trump in ways that just happen to validate Fox’s sycophantic coverage of Trump and Trump, himself. Maybe that confirms Kurtz’s own view or maybe it justifies his employment (as a media reporter, no less) at a network that those not in the tank for Trump can plainly see is in the tank for him.
I recommend the entire article as a must-read.
(H/T NewsHound Richard)
Crossposted at News Hounds.
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