Howard Kurtz on Weiner: I've Never Seen Media Spin This Out of Control Over a Sex Scandal

CNN's Howard Kurtz made a statement to his colleague Eliot Spitzer Wednesday that folks who remember the media firestorm surrounding former Congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla.) will find hard to believe.

Appearing on "In the Arena," the media analyst complained about the amount of coverage recent sex scandals involving Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Dominque Strauss-Kahn have received saying, "I've just never seen it spin at this velocity, this out of control" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

ELIOT SPITZER, HOST: Let's switch gears. Switch the lens. To turn the focus back to the media. How has the media handled this?

So there you have Andrew Breitbart who is, by many people, reviled. That what he has done in the past allegedly about taking tapes, cutting and splicing to misrepresent, had made him a pariah within the mainstream media.

And now here he is having led to this, and I think many people are going to say he's rehabilitated himself, whereas the mainstream media was nowhere until he led the mainstream media by the nose. Do you see it this way? Am I wrong?

HOWARD KURTZ: I don't see Andrew Breitbart as having anything done anything wrong on this story. Indeed he held back the photo although he allowed Opie and Anthony to take a picture of it. But having ricocheted now, Eliot, from -- to John Edwards, to Arnold Schwarzenegger, to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and now this story, each one is legitimate.

I can sit here and defend to you each one of those stories. But the degree of piling on, the way it takes away, hijacks cable news away, it hijacks the morning shows away, it is all over the Internet, says to me that we are more interested in covering salacious topics than the matters of the economy, war and peace.

That's not a novel statement on my part. I've just never seen it spin at this velocity, this out of control.

I guess Kurtz is forgetting the wall-to-wall coverage the Foley sex scandal got in the fall of 2006 when during the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, you couldn't turn on a television set or open up a newspaper without hearing or reading about it and how it was somehow tied to a Republican "culture of corruption."

As NewsBusters reported Wednesday, the disparity in the coverage of the Foley and Weiner scandals is perfectly demonstrated by how magazines Newsweek and Time handled them:

Time and Newsweek each devoted cover stories and multiple pages to the Foley scandal. Time put an elephant’s rear end on the cover with the words “What a Mess...Why a tawdry Washington sex scandal may spell the end of the Republican revolution”. Newsweek had a huge picture of Foley (with a small President Bush in front of his face) with the huge headline “Off Message” and the subhead “Foley’s Secret Life: How a Predator’s E-mail Sex Scandal Could Cost Bush Congress.”

Obviously, there were no Anthony Weiner cover stories this week (dated June 13): Time had Dr. Oz, and Newsweek mocked Mitt Romney’s Mormonism as they promoted the vulgar South Park musical "The Book of Mormon." How many Weinergate pages inside? Do you have to guess? There's not a "page" at all.

Time magazine was funnier: try reading the whole issue for any mention of Weiner. There’s no news story, no funny quote from Weiner about “certitude” in the “Verbatim” feature. Then on page 83, in tiny six-point type in the “Pop Chart” feature, there are these tiny words: “A college student received a lewd picture from his allegedly hacked Twitter account.”

Thirteen words and a tiny, upside-down picture.

What a contrast: In 2006, Time’s table of contents page highlighted the cover story: “Whatever happened to the Republican revolution? The reformers who took Congress in 1994 are gone, replaced by pols who seem willing to do anything to hold power – even overlook a Congressman’s improprieties with teens.” Time devoted eight precious pages to the Foley scandal, including two hostile one-page columns from Time staffers answering the question “Mark Foley’s Real Sin Was...”

If Kurtz thinks media have never spun "at this velocity, this out of control" over a sex scandal, he must have been out of the country in the fall of 2006.

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