Howard Kurtz: Why Didn't Media Cover Etheridge Attack Like Allen's Macaca?

Howard Kurtz on Sunday said most mainstream media outlets "really blew it this week" in how they reported North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge's attack on students.

"Most treated it as intriguing footage or a good gossip item, but the guy went bonkers when approached by two young men with a video camera," Kurtz said near the end of CNN's "Reliable Sources."

After playing the video of the incident, Kurtz surprisingly asked, "Remember how the media went nuts over that tape of Republican Senator George Allen using the word 'Macaca?'"

He continued, "By minimizing this footage of a Democratic congressman, most news organizations have enabled their critics to charge once again that they have a double standard" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Finally, I think most mainstream media outlets really blew it this week when faced with a stunning videotape involving North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge. Most treated it as intriguing footage or a good gossip item, but the guy went bonkers when approached by two young men with a video camera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just here for a project.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please let go of my hand.

REP. BOB ETHERIDGE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Tell me who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just a student, sir.

ETHERIDGE: From?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just students. That's all we are.

ETHERIDGE: I have a right to know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we are is students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, we're in a public place.

ETHERIDGE: So am I.

Who are you? Who are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please let go of my arm, sir.

ETHERIDGE: Who are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir -- sir, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, please let go of me.

ETHERIDGE: Who are you? KURTZ (voice-over): Etheridge has apologized. And we still don't know whether the young men were political agitators.

Andrew Breitbart, the conservative who publicized the ACORN sting, was the first to put up the Etheridge video, which got a big ride on Sean Hannity's show.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: But it really doesn't matter. Remember how the media went nuts over that tape of Republican Senator George Allen using the word "Macaca"? By minimizing this footage of a Democratic congressman, most news organizations have enabled their critics to charge once again that they have a double standard.

Yes it has, Howard.  

That said, Kurtz could have used his own paper as an example of this double standard.

According to LexisNexis, the Post's only report on Etheridge's attack came at the end of a June 15 Style section article about an upcoming series on Bravo called "The Real Housewives of D.C."  

Tucked at the conclusion of this piece was the following (from LexisNexis, no link available):

A very candid camera reaction

So, what really happened when Rep. Bob Etheridge ran into a couple of self-described "students" on the streets of D.C. last week? The video confrontation between the obscure seven-term North Carolina Dem and two camera-wielding young men ("Who are you?" he demands. "Tell me who you are," as he grabs the wrist of one) went viral Monday and left more questions than answers.

Who are the videographers? Lots of theories about GOP operatives, but no one has come forward to take credit, reports our colleague David Weigel. The reason for stopping Etheridge outside a fundraiser for Nancy Pelosi? "A project," one of the men said on the video. Anything happen that's not on the tape? Unclear, since no other version of the encounter has emerged. The National Journalism Center and the Leadership Institute, two Virginia organizations that train conservative journalists (the latter boasts ACORN sting artist James O'Keefe), flatly denied the men worked for them, as did the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"I apologize for my actions," Etheridge said during a news conference Monday afternoon. "They were unacceptable." He declined to say if parts of the exchange were edited out or speculate if conservatives had staged the clash for . . . well, a viral video. "I'm not going there," he said.

And that was ALL the coverage Kurtz's own paper gave to this matter -- in the STYLE section no less!

As the Post mercilessly pounded the Macaca out of George Allen in the summer and fall of 2006 leading to his defeat in that November's midterm elections, it is indeed a FINE example of the double standard Kurtz spoke of Sunday.

Too bad he didn't mention that in his admonishment of how the media "really blew" its reporting of the Etheridge attack. 

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