Howard Kurtz Bashes Beck and Hannity for Calling Delaware Dem a Marxist

Howard Kurtz on Sunday bashed Fox News personalities Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity for calling Delaware's Democrat Senatorial candidate Chris Coons a Marxist.

Coons, while a student at Amherst College in 1985, wrote an autobiographical article for the school newspaper called "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist." 

Despite Politico's Alex Isenstadt bringing this piece to light on May 3, Kurtz on CNN's "Reliable Sources" expressed dismay with the conclusion folks like Beck and Hannity have come to concerning its contents.

"It was a joke, a clear and obvious joke." said Kurtz. "That's also a good description of those who are passing off this ancient article as evidence of some communist past" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: This one is about distortion. Now, the media have spent a lot of time kicking around Christine O'Donnell, in part over that "dabbled in witchcraft" sound bite she had on Bill Maher's show 11 years ago. But for some of our friends on Fox News, the focus has been more on O'Donnell's Democratic challenger in the Delaware Senate race, a county executive named Chris Coons.

Fox has a new label for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: Let's not talk about O'Donnell. Let's talk about the challenger, the Democratic challenger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a loon.

BECK: A Marxist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BECK: I mean, he admitted it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he admitted it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: During his undergraduate days, Coons wrote about the development of his ideology in his college newspaper. Now, the article was called, "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist." And now some unpopular Democrats are coming out of the woodwork to support Delaware's bearded Marxist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But it turns out this bearded Marxist business is bogus. Back in 1985 -- that would be 25 years ago -- Coons wrote the following for his college newspaper, "The Amherst Student," about spending a semester in Kenya: "My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet or the tropical sun, changed my personality. Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists."

It was a joke, a clear and obvious joke. That's also a good description of those who are passing off this ancient article as evidence of some communist past.

To begin with, why didn't Kurtz scold Politico? After all, Isenstadt appears to be the first national reporter to bring this article to light:

An article Democrat Chris Coons wrote for his college newspaper may not go over so well in corporation-friendly Delaware, where he already faces an uphill battle for Vice President Joe Biden's old Senate seat. [...]

In the article, Coons, then 21 years old and about to graduate from Amherst College, chronicled his transformation from a sheltered, conservative-minded college student who had worked for former GOP Delaware Sen. William Roth and had campaigned for Ronald Reagan in 1980 into a cynical young adult who was distrustful of American power and willing to question the American notion of free enterprise. [...]

The source of his conversion, Coons wrote, was a trip to Kenya he took during the spring semester of his junior year-a time away from America, he wrote, that served as a "catalyst" in altering a conservative political outlook that he was growing increasingly uncomfortable with.

It appears Isenstadt may have been the first national journalist to conclude that Coons's trip to Kenya was a key to his conversion from Republican to a liberal. As such, why didn't Kurtz mention this rather than blaming all the scorn on Fox, Beck, and Hannity?

After some more quotes from Coons's piece, Isenstadt continued:

Dave Hoffman, a Coons campaign spokesman, said the title of the article was designed as a humorous take-off on a joke Coons's college friends had made about how his time outside the country had affected his outlook.

Is this where Kurtz got the idea that the whole article was a joke? From Coons's campaign spokesman?

That doesn't seem like good journalism, does it?

For the record, here's the entire Coons article in question courtesy Delaware Way:

College is supposed to be a time of change, a time to question our assumption about the world and define our basic values. For me, the transformations of the last few years have been especially acute. I came to Amherst from a fairly sheltered, privileged, and politically conservative background. I campaigned for Reagan in 1980, and spent the summer after freshman year working for Senator Roth (of Kemp-Roth tax-cut fame.) In the fall of 1983, I was a proud founding member of the Amherst College Republicans. In November 1984, I represented the Amherst Democrats in a hotly contested pre-election debate against my former roommates, co-founders and leaders of the Republicans. As the debate progressed it became obvious how unreconcilably different our opinions had become. What caused such a shift in only one year?

I spent the spring of my junior year in Africa on the St. Lawrence Kenya Study Program. Going to Kenya was one of the few real decisions I have made; my friends, family, and professors all advised against it, but I went anyway, My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe a strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear thinking Americans and sends back Bearded Marxists.

The point that others ignore is that I was ready to change. Experiences at Amherst my first two years made me skeptical and uncomfortable with Republicanism, enough so that I wanted to see the Third World for myself to get some perspective on my beliefs. Certainly Kenya provided a needed catalyst; I saw there poverty, and oppression more naked than any in America, and I studied under a bright and eloquent Marxist professor at the University of Nairobi. Nevertheless, it is only too easy to return from Africa glad to be an American and smugly thankful for our wealth and freedom. Instead, Amherst had taught me to question, so in return I questioned Amherst, and America.

When I first arrived at Amherst, I was somewhat of a Republican fanatic. I fit Churchill's description, namely, that a fanatic is "Someone who can't change their mind, and won't change the subject." While other freshman share care packages from home, I was equally generous with my inherited political opinions giving them to anyone who would listen. It was in this manner that I soon met a creature I had never known before-a Democrat, several of them. Some of the "Leftists" that I met early on were terrifyingly persuasive, although I never admitted that. A few became my friends and provided a constant nagging backdrop of doubt, for which I am now grateful.

More importantly, during sophomore year, several professors challenged the basic assumptions about America and the world relations with which I had grown up. Cultural Anthropology inspired a fascination with other peoples, and undermined the accepted value of progress and the cultural superiority of the West. In examining the role of myths in "primitive" cultures, we also studied the myth of equal opportunity in this country, a myth I had never questioned. A course on the Vietnam War painted in gory detail a picture of horrible failures made possible by American hubris and dogmatism. I came to suspect, through these and other courses, that the ideal of America as "a beacon of freedom and justice, providing hope for the world" was not exactly based in reality. So, I went to Africa, hungry for a break from Amherst and eager to gain some broader political insight from the brutally real world. What do other nations think of us? Can private enterprise and democracy solve the problems of developing nations? Is Marxism an evil ideology, leading millions into totalitarian slavery? These were some of the questions in the back of my mind as I left for Kenya.

What I learned in Africa unsettled me. I saw the deprivation and oppression of the poor and the politically disfavored in a way not possible in the U.S. In Kenya, my position was not at stake; I was not directly benefiting if the underprivileged had little hope of advancement. I lived with the struggling African family for a month and came to know the hardships that they face. What surprised me was the attitude of the elite; I became friends with a very wealthy businessman and his family and heard them reiterate the same beliefs held by many Americans; the poor are poor because they are lazy, slovenly, uneducated. "Kenya is a land of opportunity," they said, "those who work receive their just reward." I knew this was not true in the case of many black Kenyans; this story merely served to justify the position of many who had done well only by working for the British colonialists. I realize that Kenya and America are very different, but experiences like this warned me that my own favorite beliefs in the miracles of free enterprise and the boundless opportunity to be had in America might be largely untrue.

When I returned last summer, I traveled all over the East Coast and saw in many ways a different America. Upon arriving at Amherst this fall, I felt like a freshman at an unfamiliar school all over again. Many of the questions raised by my experiences of the last year remained unanswered. I have spent my senior year reexamining my ideas and have returned to loving America, but in the way of one who has realized its faults and failures and still believes in its promise. The greatest value of Amherst for me, then, has been the role it played in allowing me to question, and to think. I had to see the slums of Nairobi before the slums of New York meant anything at all, but with out the experiences of Amherst, I never would have seen either.

Reading the entire piece, and not just what Kurtz cherry-picked, does this all seem like a joke?

Quite the contrary, what seems infinitely funnier is how Kurtz in a previous segment actually played for his viewers the most recent "Politically Incorrect" video clip of O'Donnell that HBO's Bill Maher revealed on "Real Time" Friday.

It seems that Kurtz was just as amazed as the rest of his colleagues that there are devoutly religious people in this country who don't believe in the theory of evolution. 

As such, an autobiographical article by Coons in which he referred to himself as a bearded Marxist is all a joke while comments O'Donnell made concerning her religious faith are somehow relevant to this campaign.

Intriguing double standard there Howie.

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