After Accusing Beck of Ad Boycott Retaliation, Kurtz Wonders Why Media Didn't Report on Van Jones

What a difference two weeks make.

On August 30, CNN's Howard Kurtz accused Glenn Beck of attacking former green jobs czar Van Jones in retaliation for the advertising boycott the Jones-founded group Color of Change had organized against the Fox News host.

Now that Jones has been forced to resign as a result of numerous allegations uncovered and/or reported by Beck, Kurtz is wondering why most other news outlets totally ignored this story.

To refresh your memory, here's what Kurtz said about Beck on "Reliable Sources" two weeks ago (video embedded below the fold):

Glenn Beck devoted some time this week to trashing a man named Van Jones, a special adviser at the White House Council on Environmental Quality...And why is it that the Fox News host would target this relatively obscure administration official along with that scary music? Van Jones was a co-founder of Color of Change, an advocacy group that has been promoting an advertising boycott of Beck's show over his denunciation of President Obama as a racist. Some three dozen advertisers have pulled their spots from the Beck program, a detail that Beck somehow neglected to mention.

As NewsBusters noted at the time, Beck did two reports concerning the misdeeds of Jones BEFORE Color of Change's boycott campaign began.

I guess Kurtz either read my piece, or the e-mail message I sent him that day, for on Sunday's "Reliable Sources," he was singing a different tune:

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: News wars took yet another nasty turn this week after Glenn Beck took on the Obama administration and won. The Fox News host launched a crusade against a little-known White House environmentalist Van Jones, initially prompting Jones to apologize for calling the Republicans a rather crude term ending in "holes".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: How about being a member of the radical group STORM, communist? No. How about being a black nationalist in his past. No apology for that and how about taking wealth from one group and another and doing it the entire system over. No, no, no, no apology for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Most of the mainstream media ignored the controversy and then Beck reported that Jones had signed a 2004 petition urging an investigation of those wild and ridiculous charges that Bush administration officials deliberately allowed thousands of Americans to be killed in the 9/11 attacks. The Obama aide quietly resigned last weekend. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK: I am not the one to congratulate. I can go on and on and on about this stuff every night, but if you don't care, and it doesn't connect with the American people what I say doesn't matter. But you know what? It wasn't until this weekend that the mainstream media started saying it and they got the story wrong six ways to Sunday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now, that triggered an unusual response from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann who wrote on the liberal Website "Daily Kos," that people should send me everything you can find on Beck, his producer of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. This echoing Beck's own request on Twitter for everything his fans could find on three administration official. Olbermann later dropped his appeal saying he doesn't want to operate the way Beck does.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: I have some things Mr. Beck does not: conscience, the respect of my colleagues and self-respect.

Besides which, in just the last ten weeks Beck has fantasized about poisoning the Speaker of the House of Representative. He's agreed with a guest who advocated a bin Laden terror attack on this country and he's already personally called the President of the United States a racist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So did Beck go overboard? What about Olbermann's reaction and where was the rest of the media on the Van Jones controversy?

Where was the rest of the media on the Van Jones controversy, Howie? After you ripped Beck for having the nerve to go after Jones just two weeks ago?

But this gets better:

KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about that: Chris Stirewalt, political editor of the "Washington Examiner;" and Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for "Air America Radio" and a columnist for Playboy magazine.

Ana Marie, Glenn Beck targeted Van Jones, kicked the hell out of him on the air, but some of his information was damaging and Jones resigned.

ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "AIR AMERICA RADIO": Yes, I think this is another sign -- I am very curious about how the White House sort of spot through some of the lower level appointees, I mean, not so lower level. I think that during the campaign they showed a masterful understanding of the way that the media works and the way that people respond to certain kind of allegations.

It seems like they really had no idea this was going to be a problem and that disturbs me more than anything.

KURTZ: Have they heard of Google?

COX: Yes.

KURTZ: Chris Stirewalt, Van Jones co-founded a group called Color of Change which has mounted a boycott campaign against Glenn Beck's Fox show. Beck started attacking Jones before that boycott and I should have made that clear the last time I talked about it on this program but then he really intensified (INAUDIBLE) and he never told his viewers about the boycott.

Yes, you should have, Howie:

KURTZ: Was that a misstep?

CHRIS STIREWALT, POLITICAL EDITOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: On Beck's part, obviously not. He won. He carried the day, Van Jones is out and it's a win for his team. I think the bigger question that the Van Jones controversy creates is who is the White House talking to and who are they listening to?

It sounds like they're listening to Glenn Beck and if that's going on he's going to continue to have trouble with the left.

KURTZ: "The New York Times" didn't run a story on this Van Jones controversy until after he had already resigned. Why did the mainstream media with a few exceptions, all but ignore the allegations until the very end?

Now, pay particular attention to Cox's inanities:

COX: I want to be clear. I think there's actually not a lot to these allegations.

KURTZ: The guy signed a truther petition.

COX: That he was deceived about.

KURTZ: How do you know that?

COX: Because I -- maybe the mainstream media may not have been following this -- but there was plenty of information on blogs and everywhere.

KURTZ: His signature is on the petition.

COX: Right.

STIREWALT: Are we supposed to now accept his...

COX: OK and actually so do you think that the 9/11 truthers are the people whose word we should be taking on this about how they got signatures on this petition.

KURTZ: There is a document with his signature on.

COX: There is and they have his signature and I'm not sure that I completely buy the way that that signature got there.

KURTZ: Whether Van Jones was in the right or not and when he's saying things like white environmentalists are forcing pollution into communities of color. Isn't that a story? He's a White House official.

COX: Yes, it is a story. I think there's actually -- there's a whole history to that kind of -- to that kind of criticism of the way that the environment sort of charges work. Poor communities do get a disproportionate amount of...

KURTZ: My point is maybe it's fine to run a story that Van Jones is getting a bum rap and here are the allegations and they're not really true, but to run some story.

COX: I know. Definitely. Sure.

STIREWALT: That would have been the absolute story that at the very least -- "The New York Times" didn't do any stories. "The Post" didn't do any stories.

KURTZ: The "Washington Post" did one story the day I before his resignation.

STIREWALT: The day before the resignation. I'm sorry. I meant to say during the run-up. But the point being when you hear the managing editor of the "New York Times" or read the managing editor for the "New York Times" saying that we were short staffed because of the holiday weekend.

COX: That was pretty lame.

STIREWALT: And we weren't able therefore to cover the green jobs czar...

KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) also acknowledged that "The Times" had been slow on the story.

What about Olbermann's role, here he is going out and saying, "give me everything you can find on Beck." Even though he later pulled back it made me think one journalist investigating another. Do we really want to go there?

STIREWALT: Glenn Beck is talking about the President of the United States and his administration. Keith Olbermann is talking about Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck has twice the viewership; he beats him in the demographics that advertisers want. He just kicks him all over the place.

The fact that Olbermann is trying to sort of latch on to some part of Beck's surprising success I think is indicative of what the situation is for him.

KURTZ: But Olbermann also says that Fox targets him by printing false rumor rumors in "The New York Post" also owned by Rupert Murdoch. And he's got several examples.

COX: I think there's something to that. I think there's something to the fact that people in media are obsessed with themselves and with each other. That doesn't make it okay for Olbermann to call for an investigation squad from the Baker Street irregulars, I think he called them. I watched his "Face in the Crowd," which is a big reference point for Keith Olbermann when it comes to Glenn Beck, the character of Lonesome Rhodes who's the sort of rabble rousing and right-wing demagogue. In that actually -- I just wish he'd stuck with pointing people to that movie rather than pointing people to the investigations.

KURTZ: Let's concede the point about self-obsession which probably most people out there would not dispute.

Are these feuds that go on particularly between Fox and MSNBC, but there are plenty of others. Are they at all holding journalists accountable or is it just ideological warfare?

COX: Feuds are not holding people accountable. Feuds are petty and about just digging up dirt. Holding people accountable...

KURTZ: And maybe getting ratings.

COX: And maybe getting ratings. And holding people accountable was sort of what Chris was talking about which is that when these allegations about Van Jones started to get turn around, someone should have done a story, are they true? Is there anything here?

And in the context of a larger question of the administration, how important is this job? Do the past views have any sort of influence on what he's doing now? Feuds are what kids do in playgrounds and they throw mud pies.

Amazing. So, now Cox is claiming Jones's job wasn't very important nor were his past views. But just a few minutes ago, she said:

I think this is another sign -- I am very curious about how the White House sort of spot through some of the lower level appointees, I mean, not so lower level. I think that during the campaign they showed a masterful understanding of the way that the media works and the way that people respond to certain kind of allegations.

It seems like they really had no idea this was going to be a problem and that disturbs me more than anything.

So which is it, Ana: was Jones's job not very important nor were his previous views, or was he not so lower level and the White House did a terrible job of vetting him?

But I digress:

KURTZ: Glenn Beck, of course, also called the president of the United States a racist, that he had a deep-seated hatred for white culture. That's what triggered the boycott, whether Van Jones personally was involved in or not. But he also talks about being a recovering alcoholic and how he's made a lot of mistakes and he's successfully used that to kind of deflect criticism of some of his more inflammatory rhetoric of which there is no shortage, I should add.

STIREWALT: Well, there is that. But there also -- I think the real reason for Beck's success is that he's given -- there are more conservatives than liberals in America and he's giving conservatives a way to plug in and be interactive, whether it's to go to a Tea party protest or whether it's to Twitter him with that investigations they'd like to see carried out.

It's interactive, it's not just (INAUDIBLE) and when you watch Olbermann you feel it's sort of hysterical and emotional and Beck's giving them a way to plug in.

COX: I disagree with that. I think actually both Olbermann and Beck are just incredibly entertaining. I watched Beck yesterday when he did a special after the Tea party protest and that guy is good. He's really, really entertaining.

KURTZ: But does being entertaining -- is that enough? In other words, what about...

COX: Apparently so because he's not right about much stuff.

Actually, Ana Marie, from the way you performed on Sunday, you shouldn't be throwing any credibility stones at one of the nation's leading cable personalities.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.