October 17, 2022

Fox News' Howie Kurtz has his panties in a bunch over deserved criticism lobbed at NBC News over Dasha Burns swipe at John Fetterman in her interview with him last week.

“It’s sheer media partisanship, there’s no other way to put it!” Kurtz snarled. “Some anchors and pundits are rushing to defend John Fetterman, who unfortunately suffered a stroke as he was winning the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania. And they’re taking aim at an NBC reporter who was just doing her job and a very good job at that.”

Actually, no. She was not "just doing her job" and she certainly wasn't doing her job last week. What she was doing was taking a swipe at a man's health and recovery from a serious stroke. It wasn't the closed captioning; it was her snide little comment about how he wasn't doing so well with "small talk" ahead of the interview.

It was ableist and more fundamentally, a cheap shot. Why a cheap shot? Because Dasha Burns knew he had auditory processing challenges, needed the closed captioning, didn't use closed captioning during her "small talk," and then hammered Fetterman over the head with it in order to skewer him later with questions about whether he was really up to being a Senator.

Let me educate Howie Kurtz, not that he really cares. As a stroke survivor myself -- one who has overcome many, but not all, lingering effects -- that shot at Fetterman felt like a gut punch when I heard it. Five months out from my stroke, I was finally overcoming the speech issues I had, but to this day I struggle to type. The stroke I had happened while I was typing; in fact, it was the first indicator that something was wrong because I was typing gibberish even as I knew what the right keystrokes were. Apparently that area of my brain was one of the most affected.

To this day, I struggle to type. I can do it, but it takes far more effort than it did in the past. I know where the keys are but translating it to my fingers is something my brain tries very hard to do properly. I succeed about half the time. I'm actually better with an iPhone than an actual keyboard for some reason.

Nevertheless, I do my job and I think I do it pretty well six days a week, 51 weeks a year.

My stroke didn't impact my daily rage at the fascism in the Republican party, or the outrageous daily partisanship of right wing outlets like Fox News, Newsmax, OANN, Right Side Broadcasting, Real America's Voice, etc, etc etc. Just look at that list of "media partisans."

My stroke didn't erase my judgment or my editorial sense.

My stroke did not take away my desire or ability to speak.

My stroke did not take away my desire to make a difference.

All it did was force me to change my lifestyle, and work harder at the same things. The same is true of Fetterman. There are senators with dementia, senators who have had strokes, senators who had cancer. They all manage to hobble in every day and do their job, such as it is. Some do better jobs than others, but not because they're immune to health challenges. It's because of them, in some cases. (See Senator Maizie Hirono for an example of that)

What Dasha Burns did - and NBC News blessed -- was to see a man climbing back up out of a hole and stomp on his hands. It didn't work, but it's hardly something to be praised. Which is why Howie Kurtz felt compelled to do it.

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