Media Matters and this blog have regularly criticized Washington Post media writer and CNN TV host Howard Kurtz for his conservative bias in his reporting. Whether his being an administration mouthpiece has anything to do with his wife being a GOP consultant is unclear. (It is interesting to note that in her bio on her website she makes no mention that Kurtz is her husband.)
But certainly one has to question not only his bias but his journalistic credentials with his piece this morning. The story does nothing more than provide critics of the New York Times about 40 column inches to criticize the paper for its reporting of the banking records search initiative by Bush & Co. and put both the NY and the LA Times editors on the defensive, right from the lede.
President Bush calls the conduct of the New York Times “disgraceful.” Vice President Cheney objects to the paper having won a Pulitzer Prize. A Republican congressman wants the Times prosecuted. National Review says its press credentials should be yanked. Radio commentator Tammy Bruce likens the paper to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
… Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, yesterday asked John Negroponte, the national intelligence director, for a damage assessment following the Times story. Three other GOP senators joined Roberts at a news conference, with John Ensign of Nevada saying the paper “should have worked in cooperation with those authorities in our government to make sure that those who leaked were prosecuted.” Arizona Rep. J.D. Hayworth circulated a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert calling for the paper’s congressional credentials to be withdrawn. And New York Rep. Peter King continues to call for the Times — which, he told Fox News, has an “arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda” — to be prosecuted for violating the 1917 Espionage Act.
… Heather MacDonald, writing in the Weekly Standard, called the Times “a national security threat” that is “drunk” on its own power.
William Bennett, the former Reagan administration official and conservative radio host, said the “cumulative impact” of both Times stories, and The Post’s disclosure of secret CIA prisons overseas, had brought the situation to a “critical mass.” Conservatives, he said, now wonder: “Gosh, is there a secret operation we’re running that won’t be disclosed by the press?”
But here’s the journalistic flaw, one that many reporters have when it comes to reporting the latest PR flack coming from the GOP: They rarely cut to the chaste and ask why this is a problem.
[Republicans] contend that exposing the classified banking program has badly undermined the administration’s efforts to investigate and capture terrorists.
The obvious question is How? Never once in the piece does Kurtz bother to ascertain whether the criticism is legitimate. If searching bank records is not on nearly the thin ice as the eavesdropping efforts are, as some contend, then critics of the Times at the very least need to tell us why the story is a threat to the administration’s efforts to thwart terrorists. Does anyone think that the terrorists would be surprised by this effort? The administration said from early on that they would try to disrupt the flow of money among Islamic terrorists. So why is the story so destructive to those efforts?