Color me cynical but I don’t see anything but self-preservation in Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz’s comments yesterday, saying he wants to talk about the Dominion defamation case against Fox but his employer won’t allow it.
As you may have heard, Kurtz said the following on his MediaBuzz show yesterday:
KURTZ: Some of you have been asking why I'm not covering the Dominion voting machines lawsuit against Fox involving the unproven claims of election fraud in 2020, and it's absolutely a fair question. I believe I should be covering it, it’s a major media story, given my role here at Fox. But the company has decided that as part of the organization being sued, I can't talk about it or write about it at least for now. I strongly disagree with that decision but as an employee I have to abide by it.
Mediaite and MSNBC reported this as Kurtz “speaking out” against the network’s decision which has also been portrayed as some kind of censorship.
Sorry, folks, I have a more cynical view. For one thing, it is the norm for litigants not to talk about their cases. I don't see anything nefarious or fearful in this edict. But more importantly, it’s not as if nobody knew Fox was pumping out disinformation about the 2020 election until the Dominion brief was filed 11 days ago. We just didn’t know how brazenly top Fox hosts and executives acknowledged there was no truth to the lies they were peddling. Or how they demanded reporters and at least one host not tell the truth.
Don’t tell me Kurtz didn’t know what was going under his nose until it was made public.
The Dominion lawsuit was not filed until March, 2021. Kurtz had plenty of time to speak about the election lies on Fox before then.
Which brings me to my next point: What did Kurtz want to say about the Dominion lawsuit? That he was shocked to learn Fox was lying to its viewers? That it was all just a brief lapse in judgment? Or would he take Fox’s side and argue that, as The New York Times described Fox’s defense, “the network was doing what any media organization would: reporting and commenting on a matter of undeniable newsworthiness. And it noted that many of its programs did not endorse the claim that the election was stolen.” Would he have said something along the lines of, "Prime time hosts may have lied but I have never?"
I don’t doubt that Kurtz would have liked to say something. And, since he’s not a Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity or Maria Bartiromo, he’s probably appalled and mortified by what is now public knowledge (except to those who only watch Fox).
For Kurtz to say “I strongly disagree” with Fox’s gag order makes him look like he’s distancing himself from the network. But at this point, the only meaningful way to do that is to resign. I don’t say that lightly, as I know people have financial burdens and needs. But staying on is acquiescence, accommodation and complicity. There is no way he will escape untarnished except, maybe, in MAGA world, which is probably not Kurtz’s scene.
John Amato, at Crooks and Liars (where I am a contributor), noted that staying on will also make Kurtz look “pretty foolish, because unless his show is pulled off the air, he will still be critiquing all other media outlets -- except his own.” Yep, that too.
You can watch Kurtz’s comments below, from the February 26, 2023 MediaBuzz, via Crooks and Liars. Let me know in the comments section if you agree with my take or if you have a different one.
PS I know Dominion released more damaging information today, this time, Rupert Murdoch’s deposition. I hope to read it and post about it tomorrow.
Anyway, it seems that practically everybody who counts at Fox(not)News has been caught with their pants down. Even the top boss is throwing his beloved pets under the proverbial bus. Pure karma, folks, pure karma. And, my deepest gratitude to Dominion and Smartmatic.