Fox's Kurtz Breaks Promise To Cover Critical Ailes Biography

Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz reneged on his promise to cover a new biography offering a harsh critique of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes on Fox's media show, #MediaBuzz.

On the January 19 edition of #MediaBuzz, Kurtz said he would cover the newly released book, New York writer Gabriel Sherman's The Loudest Voice In The Room, on the following week's show, saying:

First, a programming note. A biography of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes by a New York Magazine reporter has been getting plenty of media attention. We will talk about it, on next week's show.

But Kurtz did not report on the book as promised during his January 26 show, as Variety noted. Segments featured on the show instead included discussions of Glenn Beck's time at Fox News, media coverage of Wendy Davis' campaign for Texas governor, and the Chris Christie bridge scandal.

Fox News has attempted to discredit the Loudest Voice for more than a year, attacking Sherman personally and reportedly firing a top Fox executive for leaking information to the author. Ailes also cooperated with conservative journalist Zev Chafets' 2013 biography Roger Ailes, Off Camerareportedly “because he was eager to preempt Sherman's version with a more favorable and hopefully sympathetic account of his legacy.”

A review of Sherman's book found that Fox was right to be worried; unlike Off Camera, Sherman's biography revealed an unflattering portrait of Ailes as a vindictive, paranoid partisan who uses his cable news network as a clearinghouse for Republican propaganda.

Media Matters has previously found that Kurtz has been giving his employer a pass since taking the position as Fox's media analyst last year. An analysis of Kurtz's television appearances and online columns during his first two months on the job found that he almost entirely avoided criticizing Fox News, including ignoring controversies related to the network that had been widely covered elsewhere.

Variety's Brian Lowry noted that Kurtz's failure to report on Sherman's Ailes biography once again calls his credibility into question:

For in-house media critics to have any credibility, they have to be willing to at least occasionally explore the shortcomings of their employers. And given all the coverage regarding Ailes' concern regarding the book and his alleged campaign against the author, Kurtz looked caught between the proverbial rock and hard place -- so much so that ignoring the book would have been preferable to creating the appearance of acting as Ailes' surrogate.

Nevertheless, to promise coverage -- as Kurtz did on air at the close of last week's program -- and then renege creates an impression of Kurtz as Ailes' lap dog. And it's not like there weren't ways to approach Sherman's biography in a skeptical manner, especially after New York Times critic Janet Maslin panned the book, providing some cover from one of the bastions of liberal media Fox News so regularly derides.