A quarter century ago, as then dewy-cheeked Calbuzzards fiercely focused on chronicling the historic campaign of President Bruce Babbitt, grizzled editors at the beloved Old Chronicle coped with a staff writer screw-up of monumental proportion.
Seems that the late Chronicle music critic Heuwell Tircuit had filed a piece, duly published by the newspaper, that trashed the footwork in a pas de deux executed during a performance of the San Francisco Ballet.
Only problem: the pas de deux had been scratched from the program just before show time in favor of another piece, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the Chron’s music man hadn’t actually, you know, attended the performance he had savaged, but rather was home doing his laundry. Or something.
The sad tale of Heuwell Turkey, as he was subsequently and inevitably known in the newsroom, came to mind amid the recent professional tribulations and public humiliations of media con man critic Howard Kurtz.
Howie’s hallway of mirrors: As all the world knows by now, Kurtz abruptly lost his cushy and lucrative – we hear he was pulling down $600K a year — gig at the Daily Beast after churning out a baffling piece that attacked the coming out of NBA player Jason Collins as gay, because Collins purportedly didn’t disclose that he was once engaged to a woman. Only problem: Collins had disclosed that he had once been engaged to a woman in the 8th paragraph of the long coming-out story published under his name in Sports Illustrated.
As the twitterverse and blogosphere engulfed him in mockery, Kurtz next shamelessly took to “Reliable Sources,” his own show on CNN that purports to offer hard-hitting media criticism, to deliver a mea culpa straight out of the pages of corporate damage control 101.
After cataloging his list of multiple sins in the Collins story in a 78-rpm pace that wrapped up his self-serving confession in a crisp 54 seconds, Howie gazed directly into the camera and, oozing fake sincerity, said:
“I hope that this very candid response may earn back your trust over time. It is something I am committed to doing.”
Put aside that Kurtz risked serious injury to his elbow by patting himself on the back for his “very candid response,” along with the fact that he followed up by bringing on two 12-year old “media critics,” whom he led around like baby circus elephants, to ask him “tough questions” about the scandal.
As we’ve been pointing out for years, here, here and here, Kurtz is a cheap Beltway hustler, a walking conflict of interest who got run out of his lofty, longtime perch at the Washington Post after his own employer finally bashed him in print over his interlocking professional and personal agendas.
The people speak: Some of the best online discussions we’ve seen on Howie have been over at Gawker, from which we’ve assembled a multiple choice test of what Kurtz’s greatest transgression in his latest mess has been (answer below):
a) “In other words I was wrong I’m stupid and I’m an asshole but I still collect a nice check from CNN.”
b) “The truth is, folks, that all this bullshit about multitasking is bullshit. I don’t read most of the shit I comment on or write about, and I got caught. But I’ll keep on doing it because you fools keep paying me to do it.”
c) “Kurtz said, he would like this affair ‘to be viewed in the full context of my career.’ Okay, fair enough, Howie. Your whole career sucks!”
d) “Say Collins had left out the fact that he had been engaged; what would that have proven in Kurtz’ mind? That Collins was faking being gay? Someone help me think like a bigot here, please.”
e) “WOW I GUESS HE’S NOT GAY. At least not gay enough for Howie. What’s he gotta do? Suck a dick at the freethrow line? Christ, what an buttnugget Kurtz is.”
(Correct answer: a,b,c,d,e).
A final word: Perhaps the greatest harm Kurtz has done has been to impugn the reputation of Col. Walter E. Kurtz, one of the greatest protagonists in movie history, who suffers from association with the little creep. The horror, the horror.