Kurtz Denies NewsBusters Charge He Cherry Picked to Make Rush Look Racist

Howard Kurtz on Sunday denied NewsBusters' charge that he cherry picked from a Rush Limbaugh radio transcript during last week's "Reliable Sources" in order to make the conservative talk show host look racist.

As NewsBusters reported at the time, Kurtz "used a Keith Olbermann tactic of selectively editing and cherry picking."

Shortly after writing the piece, I sent Kurtz a message via Twitter asking, "Why didn't you tell your viewers that Rush was referring to what Cynthia Tucker said?"

I guess he got the message, for at the end of Sunday's "Reliable Sources," he defended himself (video follows with transcript and commentary): 

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: The conservative Media Research Center has challenged us over a segment on last week's program. In an interview with Roger Simon, I asked him about what Rush Limbaugh had recently said about President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSH LIMBAUGH: That's exactly the same thing you could say about Obama. He wouldn't have been voted president if he weren't black. Somebody asked me over the weekend why does somebody have a lot of money because he's black. If Obama weren't black, he'd be a tour guide in Honolulu or he'd be teaching Saul Alinsky constitutional law or lecturing on it in Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Roger Simon said that was racist. I challenged him on that point saying a case could be made that a white freshman senator would never have beaten Hillary Clinton for the nomination. The Center's NewsBusters site said we went astray by not playing what Rush had said earlier. He was reacting to comments on ABC's "This Week" by Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CYNTHIA TUCKER: Michael Steele is a self-aggrandizing gaffe-prone incompetent who would have been fired a long time ago were he not black. Of course the irony is that he never would have been voted in as chairman of the Republican Party were he not black.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Now, that's an interesting point but we also didn't play the part where Limbaugh attributed Oprah Winfrey's success to white people's desire quote "to show that we're not racist." Now, sound bites are compressed on television every day. The question is whether it's done fairly. I feel strongly in this case that it was. Even though Limbaugh was reacting to someone else's comments, we offered an honest excerpt of what he said about Obama - a Honolulu tour guide? - which stands on its own. Now, I could be wrong, which is why we've just given you the other side.

With all due respect, I think he's dead wrong.  

As I noted in the piece in question, this was what precipitated Limbaugh's entire point concerning what Obama might be if he wasn't black:

RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST: Cynthia Tucker, ABC's This Week, Sunday, roundtable, they discussed Michael Steele. And, by the way, this woman is the editorial director of the Atlanta Urinal and Constipation, and she has been for a long, long time. "Cynthia you once called Michael Steele an affirmative action hire gone bad." By the way, she can say this because she's African-American. Here's what she said.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Michael Steele is a self-aggrandizing gaffe-prone incompetent who would have been fired a long time ago were he not black. Of course the irony is that he never would have been voted in as chairman of the Republican Party were he not black.

LIMBAUGH: Same with Obama.

TUCKER: It is very ironic since the Republican --

LIMBAUGH: Stop the tape a second.

As such, the only reason that Limbaugh was talking about this matter was because of what Tucker said two days prior on ABC's "This Week." 

This was by no means incidental: Limbaugh was simply extrapolating from what Tucker said about Steele's race being critical to his position as chairman of the Republican National Committee and applying it to Obama.

Kurtz's audio clip of Limbaugh's words began, "That's exactly the same thing you could say about Obama."

Exactly the same as what? What Tucker said two days earlier. 

Without this connection, the meaning of Limbaugh's words is completely different, and Kurtz should know this.

We applaud Kurtz for at least addressing the matter on his program Sunday, but don't agree with his conclusion that the sound bite compression in this case was done fairly.

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