Kurtz glossed over Malkin's attack on "left-wing patriotism," despite asserting that "rantings of the fringe ... shouldn't be used to tar an entire ideology"


In a February 28 Editor & Publisher article, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz "disputed" Media Matters for America senior fellow Eric Boehlert's February 26 column, in which Boehlert criticized "Kurtz and the Post in general for having a 'crush on right-wing bloggers.' " Boehlert was specifically addressing Kurtz's February 16 profile of right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin. According to the E&P article, Kurtz defended himself by citing his "long history of profiling commentators, columnists, and bloggers on both sides of the ideological divide," adding, "What a shock that an ideological liberal doesn't think a journalist should give a fair hearing to a conservative blogger." Yet, in asserting that Boehlert is "an ideological liberal" who "doesn't think a journalist should give a fair hearing to a conservative blogger," Kurtz ignored one of Boehlert's central criticisms: that Kurtz glossed over Malkin's history to, in the words of CJR Daily's Paul McLeary, "paint ... Malkin as the voice of reason."

The day after the E&P article was posted, Kurtz appeared again to treat Malkin as a "voice of reason" in his online "Media Notes Extra" column. Writing about offensive comments posted on the Huffington Post weblog "after a suicide bomber blew himself up at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Force Base, while [Vice President Dick] Cheney was there," Kurtz noted that Malkin highlighted the comments on her blog. But while Kurtz quoted from Malkin's original post on the subject, he failed to include her suggestion that the remarks were characteristic of "left-wing patriotism and compassion." As blogger Greg Sargent noted, Kurtz's omission is particularly noteworthy because later in his column, Kurtz specifically disavows exactly what Malkin does on her blog without noting her doing it: "[I]t's absurd to view these assassination fantasies as anything other than the rantings of the fringe, and ... they shouldn't be used to tar an entire ideology."

In his column, Kurtz wrote:

[S]ome of the comments posted after a suicide bomber blew himself up at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Force Base, while Cheney was there -- killing as many as 23 people -- are nothing short of vile.

The comments appeared on the Huffington Post, which, to its credit, took them down. But some were preserved by Michelle Malkin, and I reproduce them here:


Says Malkin: "Whatever your partisan leanings, an attack planned on the Vice President of the United States is an attack on America. Some of our fellow Americans, however, can't put their sneering hatred of the White House aside."

Says me: Don't people realize that openly rooting for the death of an American official says way more about them than their intended target?

Arianna Huffington says the right wing is making entirely too much of this:

"Let me be absolutely clear: No one at HuffPost is defending these comments -- they are unacceptable and were treated as such by being removed. They were not made by me, by our editors, or by our bloggers. They were made by anonymous visitors to the site -- visitors that make up a very, very small unrepresentative portion of our readers.


"This tactic of digging through open comment threads to find outrageous comments that can then be cited as evidence of 'the angry left' has become a favorite of the swiftboat set."

Kurtz then stated: "I would agree that it's absurd to view these assassination fantasies as anything other than the rantings of the fringe, and that they shouldn't be used to tar an entire ideology."

But, as Sargent noted, "using these comments to 'tar an entire ideology' is exactly what Malkin is doing here." Sargent went on to explain that, in the Malkin post Kurtz linked to in his column, Malkin described "these loony comments as 'left-wing patriotism.' " Sargent further noted that in the same posting, Malkin "also approvingly quotes" this response from right-wing blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs:

"This kind of sick, twisted thinking is everywhere in the "progressive" blogosphere...And it's even sicker than it appears at first glance, because many of these freaks want to see Cheney dead so that he can't become president if someone assassinates President Bush."

Malkin's attempt to tie all liberals to what Kurtz described as "rantings of the fringe" is nothing new. Indeed, in posting the offensive Huffington Post user comments, Malkin linked to a "related" blog post of hers, titled "Assassination chic." In that post, Malkin discussed how the "penultimate chapter" of her book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild [Regnery, 2005] "explored the popular genre of 'Kill Bush' literature, talk radio rhetoric, and art on the Left devoted to fantasies about murdering President Bush and Republicans." Malkin listed several "examples of the Left's anti-Bush mania." She concluded: "They all need serious help."

At no point in his column did Kurtz mention that Malkin was engaging in the exact behavior he criticized.

Furthermore, while Kurtz, in his March 1 column, expressed disgust at the "assassination fantasies" found in the comments section of the Huffington Post, threats of physical violence by conservative bloggers are numerous:

  • Misha of The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler on the Supreme Court: "Five ropes, five robes, five trees. Some assembly required." [7/11/06]
  • BC of The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler on John Kerry: "Rope. Tree. Justice. The only three things that Qerry [sic] deserves for his 'service'." [10/28/04]
  • Dean Esmay on New York Times reporters: "Exposing such a secret program is not whistle-blowing -- it is high treason. When I say 'treason' I don't mean it in an insulting or hyperbolic way. I mean in a literal way: we need to find these 21st century Julius Rosenbergs, these modern day reincarnations of Alger Hiss, put them on trial before a jury of their peers, with defense counsel. When they are found guilty, we should then hang them by the neck until the [sic] are dead, dead, dead." [12/18/05]
  • Denny K of The Flying Monkey-Right Blog in reaction to the New York Times photos of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's and Vice President Dick Cheney's weekend homes: "Let's start with the following New York Times reporters and editors: Arthur 'Pinch' Sulzberger Jr., Bill Keller, Eric Lichtblau, and James Risen. Do you have an idea where they live? Go hunt them down and do America a favor. Get their photo, street address, where their kids go to school, anything you can dig up, and send it to the link above. This is your chance to be famous -- grab for the golden ring." [7/02/06]
  • Megan McCardle (who uses the pseudonym Jane Galt) on anti-war demonstrators in New York City: "I think some in New York are going to laugh even harder when they try to unleash some civil disobedience, Lenin style, and some New Yorker who understands the horrors of war all too well picks up a two-by-four and teaches them how very effective violence can be when it's applied in a firm, pre-emptive manner." [2/13/03]

Progressive blogger Glenn Greenwald, the author of How Would A Patriot Act?: Defending American Values from a President Run Amok (Working Assets Publishing, May 2006), has cataloged many more examples (here, here, here, and here).

The Washington Post
Howard Kurtz
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