Howard Kurtz Warns CNN: Liberal Media Double Standard Apparent 'to Many'

Media critic Howard Kurtz warned CNN on Friday that "to many people" it looks like the media has a massive double standard in its campaign coverage of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

"[W]hen you combine all the stories, all the airtime, all the column inches, it looks to many people, I'll just say this bluntly, like the press is giving much more aggressive scrutiny to Romney and his background than it ever gave to Barack Obama," Kurtz told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. 

Kurtz added that "to some," the media sound like they are "echoing" the Obama campaign's talking points.

"And I've increasingly been worried about whether the media which have been pushing a lot of these stories," Kurtz insisted, naming "the Boston Globe, the Washington Post on outsourcing, Vanity Fair on Cayman Island accounts, seem to some people to be echoing the message of the Obama campaign by raising so many questions about Romney's business background."

For his part, Blitzer sloppily compared the critical stories on Romney to the conservative media's treatment of the Reverend Wright controversy in 2008. While there was video evidence of Wright's controversial statements, the Boston Globe story on Romney and Bain has been pummeled by FactCheck.org and the Washington Post.

Blitzer responded to Kurtz's remarks: "So when I hear you saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the so-called 'mainstream media,' 'liberal media,' or whatever, doing the work of the Obama campaign just like four years ago the conservative media doing the work of the McCain campaign, going after Barack Obama and the Reverend Wright issues and the other issues that were out there?"   

In regards to the Boston Globe story on Mitt Romney possibly staying at Bain Capital longer than he said he did, even CNN's John King said that four sources from Bain Capital told him that Romney is telling the truth, amidst Obama campaign accusations that he is not. King added that fact-checkers at the Post, as well as FactCheck.org and a report from Fortune magazine all support Romney's account.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on July 13 on The Situation Room at 4:29 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

WOLF BLITZER: Well, obviously they've got something to say. He's got to answer these questions, why aren't you releasing all of your income tax returns? When exactly did you leave Bain Capital, why did you appear on these SEC documents in 2000, 2001, saying you were still there when you were running the Olympic games in Utah?

HOWARD KURTZ: All legitimate questions, Wolf, but I think this may be overkill on the part of the Obama campaign. All the megatonnage it has dropped on Mitt Romney's head over the many events that happened 14, 15 years ago. And I've increasingly been worried about whether the media which have been pushing a lot of these stories, The Boston Globe, the Washington Post on outsourcing, Vanity Fair on Cayman Island accounts, seem to some people to be echoing the message of the Obama campaign by raising so many questions about Romney's business background.

LAUREN ASHBURN, editor in chief, Daily-Download.com: I don't agree with you. I think that when it comes to this kind of stuff, the more questions the better. This is a man who's running for President of the United States of America. Ask the questions, answer the questions, if you want to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

BLITZER: Because if you want to be President, you know this Howie, I'm a little surprised to hear what you're saying, because no more secrets. Everything basically becomes an open book if you want to be the President of the United States.

KURTZ: I am not saying, Wolf, that journalists shouldn't be asking these questions, probing Romney's business background. It is, after all, his principal credential for running and saying he's going to fix the economy. What I am saying, is that when you combine all the stories, all the airtime, all the column inches, it looks to many people, I'll just say this bluntly, like the press is giving much more aggressive scrutiny to Romney and his background than it ever gave to Barack Obama.

BLTIZER: So when I hear you saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the so-called "mainstream media," "liberal media," or whatever, doing the work of the Obama campaign just like four years ago the conservative media doing the work of the McCain campaign, going after Barack Obama and the Reverend Wright issues and the other issues that were out there?     

KURTZ: I don't think journalists are intending to do that, but I think it may – that may be the perception of many folks because of the 24/7 nature of these questions about Romney. There hasn't been basically another story that's broken through in the last ten days.

ASHBURN: No, and that is whose fault? That's the fault of the Romney campaign. If they can come out earlier, if they had come out and answered questions all along about this, this would not be happening. Mitt Romney would not have to be doing a five-network blitz on a five o'clock on a Friday night.

KURTZ: And I would agree that the Romney campaign is very cautious, does not help itself by keeping an arms length relationship with the press. Maybe this is a turning point, we'll see if it's a one-time event.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014