Veteran media reporter and Fox News host Howard Kurtz portrays the news media in a new book as excessively negative in its treatment of President Donald Trump and essentially serving as opposition to the White House.
“Many are misguided in their belief that they are doing the right thing, and myopic in their rationalizations about why it’s perfectly fine to treat Trump differently than other presidents,” Kurtz writes in “Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth.”
POLITICO read the first several chapters of the book, which conservative publisher Regnery will release on Jan. 29. Though Kurtz does chronicle chaos in the West Wing, as The Washington Post noted in a Sunday night piece on excerpts from the forthcoming book, the author is generally sympathetic toward Trump in terms of his relationship with the media. Presumably, Trump will be much happier with Kurtz’s analysis than Michael Wolff’s in “Fire and Fury,” the bombshell bestseller that depicted Trump as ignorant and incompetent.
“The past two years have radicalized me,” Kurtz writes. “I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness out of a conviction that they must save the country from Trump.”
Kurtz characterizes the news media as underestimating candidate Trump, and asserts several times that he recognized the insurgent Republican’s electoral potential when other pundits dismissed him. “The truth is that I wasn’t pro-Trump at all, I was pro-reality,” he writes.
“It turns out they were the ones who failed to recognize what was unfolding before their eyes,” Kurtz writes of the news media. “It was the most catastrophic media failure in a generation.”
For nearly three decades, Kurtz worked at The Washington Post and emerged in the 1990s as one of the nation’s foremost media chroniclers. He has authored several books — on topics ranging from the rise of talk radio to President Bill Clinton’s press shop to and the network news wars — and had a high profile perch as host of CNN’s Reliable Sources. Kurtz left the Post in 2010 for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, where he spent three years, before joining Fox News in 2013 to launch a new Sunday show, “Media Buzz.”
In the book, Kurtz writes that he doesn’t like either political party and believes “even the best politicians can be self-serving hypocrites.” Still, at Fox News, Kurtz’s criticism generally falls in line with the right-leaning network’s running critique of the news media as clouded by liberal bias and often hostile to conservatives. During the campaign, Kurtz charged the news media with “anti-Trump “bias” and last year said anchors had crossed the line in their coverage of the new president.
Last week, Kurtz appeared on Fox News minutes after Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) finished a memorable floor speech in which he characterized Trump’s “enemy of the people” attack on the press as more befitting of dictators, and expressed concerns over a broader assault on truth in America. Kurtz suggested that the retiring Senator “apparently plans to spend the rest of his remaining months in office attacking Donald Trump” and had “undermined” his own argument against the president.
While many journalists have expressed alarm over Trump’s attempt to vilify and delegitimize the press, Kurtz seems to place as much blame on the news media.
“Donald Trump is staking his presidency, as he did his election, on nothing less than destroying the credibility of the news media; and the media are determined to do the same to him,” he writes. Kurtz argues that many news organizations are “no longer making much attempt to hide their contempt” for the president. And he takes issue with prominent journalists who have publicly characterized Trump as a “racist” based on his words and actions through the years.
In the book, Kurtz writes that Trump complained to him that tweets from New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin were “just horrible” and describes a disputed episode involving the prominent journalist.
Kurtz writes that Martin had a dispute with a Republican National Committee staffer weeks before the party’s July 2016 convention. Martin, by Kurtz’s account, told the RNC staffer that Trump is “a racist and a fascist” and that anyone supporting his candidacy was “culpable.” After a second episode, Kurtz claims that then-RNC communications director Sean Spicer reported Martin’s behavior to a top Times editor, prompting the reporter to fire back at Spicer in a subsequent call.
Martin disputed Kurtz’s account.
“Howie paraphrased a vague, preposterous-sounding quote to me that I told him sounded ridiculous and not the kind of thing I’d say,” Martin told POLITICO. “He couldn’t tell me who I purportedly said it to, but said he’d see what more he could tell me and get back to me. I never heard another word from him after that. And I still have no idea what he or Sean Spicer are talking about.”
A Regnery spokesperson said the publisher and author “absolutely stand by everything reported in the book.”
“That passage is based on sources with direct knowledge of the conversations,” a Regnery spokesperson added. “Howie gave Jonathan multiple opportunities to respond and he declined to comment.”
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