Fox host Howard Kurtz spent a lot of time helping to discount the reporting of colleague Jennifer Griffin, who confirmed reports that Donald Trump has called fallen troops “losers” and “suckers,” even as he went on to praise her as “one of the fairest, most conscientious reporters on the planet.”
Kurtz, host of Fox's Media Buzz show, which claims to analyze media coverage, offered some timid pushback to conservative attacks on the original reporting by The Atlantic of Trump’s shocking remarks, but he completely ignored how Fox has sabotaged Griffin's reporting, which confirmed and reconfirmed key aspects of The Atlantic’s report, with what she said are “unimpeachable sources.” Instead, Kurtz seemed dedicated to the mission of helping to undercut it.
Kurtz opened the discussion of The Atlantic's "explosive report" without mentioning Griffin.
First to speak was the ever-condescending Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway. First, she lectured us about The Atlantic's use of anonymous sources and the importance of including all information.
HEMINGWAY: All reporters use anonymous sources. You don't want to overuse anonymous sources or allow anonymous sources to run information operations through you. The Trump administration has seen so many of these information operations where current or former government officials get reporters to allow them to be anonymous, to spread narratives that turn out -- You know, you find out days, weeks, months, or sometimes years later, that the narrative that they spread was false.
And so what's important for reporters to do here, if they want to participate in information operation, which I would caution them to be thinking about whether that's a good idea. Make sure that you include all of the on-the-record refutations from government officials.
I think we're up to 10 of or 12 now from firsthand accounts in many cases, the contemporaneous evidence including government documents that dispute the story, and even just the years of photographic evidence of how Donald Trump acts around disabled vets, how he makes trips to Walter Reed, how he likes to bring them into the Oval Office, how he's shown hugging and kissing on them and what not.
And so you want to make sure you include all the information if you decide you want to take part in the information operation that's going on.
If Hemingway cares so much about “including all the information,” then she should have also mentioned Trump’s attacks on John McCain’s service, Trump’s own suspicious avoidance of the draft, and his smears of Gold Star parents. At the very least, Kurtz should have brought those up (he later acknowledged Trump's disrespect toward McCain). But here, he tossed to Fox Nation host Kristen Soltis Anderson, who did her part for the Trump Rehab/Undermine Griffin Reporting cause. She obliquely referenced Trump’s remarks about McCain.
ANDERSON: Well, the worry about anonymous sources is without knowing the name of the folks who are claiming that this statement was made. It's hard to assess their credibility. So while on the one hand, you can point to things President Trump has done publicly to either confirm or deny your suspicions about this.
You can say, well, on the one hand, he does lots of things for vets. On the other hand, look at what he said about John McCain. You can build a case either way. But in the case of an anonymous source, without knowing specifically who was making this claim, how close they were to the potential situation, were they really there and overheard it, or is this part of the game of telephone. It's hard for your average voter to know how much credit they should give to this.
Finally, after calling those comments “fair,” Kurtz got around to mentioning Griffin – right before he suggested her reporting was untrustworthy:
KURTZ: Now, [Atlantic reporter and editor in chief] Jeffrey Goldberg has done many defense stories over the year. Fox's Jennifer Griffin has confirmed key elements of this story based on her sources, as has The Washington Post. But Leslie, this isn't just a routine White House denial. You have several top aides who were there in France, including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, saying on the record this didn't happen. John Bolton who trashes Trump in his book saying he never heard it.
It was liberal contributor Leslie Marshall who, five minutes into the discussion, forcefully defended Griffin and made the point that the reporting matches what we have seen from Trump:
MARSHALL: Well, I think maybe they weren't standing with him when he said it. Look, there are two things here. Jennifer Griffin is an outstanding journalist. And to me, you've got to look at not only if there's an anonymous source, but who was reporting that source. Jennifer Griffin of our own network has confirmed this, corroborated this, Washington Post, New York Times.
Marshall also made the point that Trump’s own behavior supports the reporting:
MARSHALL: But in addition, Howie, you have you to look at a pattern of behavior. And the president, I mean, with the mocking of the disabled journalist, the president, you know, saying negative things about a Gold Star family, a grieving mother, saying to a mother of fallen soldier in Niger, you know, that he knew what he signed up for, the things that he said about John McCain, and also his level of defense about it.
You know, my mom used to say if you accuse somebody of something and they defend themselves again and again and again, they're probably guilty, because if you're not, it doesn't bother you. So to me, the pattern of behavior speaks to the journalist's claims.
Finally, after more than five minutes of discounting Griffin’s work, Kurtz feigned a strong stand on her behalf:
KURTZ: I just want to say. President Trump has called for Jennifer Griffin to be fired. This is one of the fairest, most conscientious reporters on the planet, a former war correspondent, has done this throughout various administrations. And she wasn't offering opinion. She was doing her job. Now, it's fine for the president to attack the story.
But he really needs to stop trying to cancel journalists based on reporting he doesn't like.
Maybe Fox should stop canceling journalism Trump doesn’t like, too.
You can watch Fox’s own media show sabotage Fox’s own reporting below, from the September 6, 2020 Media Buzz.
That said, I agree with John McKee, because the former kept popping up in my head as the latter tried to appear reasonable.