Zimmerman Coverage And Howard Kurtz's “Independence”

Back when it was announced that media reporter Howard Kurtz was jumping ship from CNN to Fox News, Kurtz used his final appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources to assure everyone watching that just because he was moving to Fox News didn't mean he would abandon his “independent brand of media criticism.” Well, Kurtz is now getting into the swing of being the media critic at a network that famously refuses to entertain any self-criticism, and so far his claims to remain “independent” aren't quite shaping up.

Kurtz appeared on Fox News four times on July 15 to talk about the media coverage of the verdict George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin murder trial. The segment below, from Special Report, is representative of all four: criticism of MSNBC and Al Sharpton, criticism of NBC's misleading editing of Zimmerman's 911 call, and highlighting some inflammatory tweets from professional athletes.

Except for the whack at Ted Nugent, there apparently weren't any conservative media figures who merited inclusion, and certainly none from Fox News. “All the media speculation about whether George Zimmerman's acquittal would lead to violent demonstrations turned out to be mostly wrong,” Kurtz observed, without noting that much of that speculation originated from his new network colleagues. “So if the prosecution did present a weak case,” Bill O'Reilly asked on July 8, “and he does get acquitted... are you expecting people to run out and cause trouble?” Geraldo Rivera is determined to say as many inflammatory and ugly things as he can about Trayvon Martin. Kurtz gave all of it a pass.

That's noteworthy on its own, but the question of Kurtz's claim to “independence” comes in to play when you go back and look at how Kurtz covered the Zimmerman trial on CNN, where he wasn't shy about noting Fox News' role in creating a divisive and heated media environment. Back on April 11, 2012, after Zimmerman's much-discussed interview with Sean Hannity, Kurtz appeared on CNN Newsroom and said that Fox News featured “made many, many segments that seemed to be taking, or at least sympathetic to, Zimmerman's side.” He concluded: “it has become very polarized and so you're right -- not surprising if he's going to call some network, that George Zimmerman would call Fox.”

Did Fox give up its stake in the Zimmerman trial since then? Not even a little bit. Sean Hannity enthusiastically promoted the defense's case and declared the trial over on June 28, a couple of weeks before it was actually over. This sort of media behavior was once on Howard Kurtz's radar.

Then he took a job at Fox News.