Howard Kurtz on Martin Bashir: ‘Sad, Pathetic and Disgusting’
Criticism continues to pour in for MSNBC’s Martin Bashir over his disgraceful comments about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin last Friday.
Appearing on Fox News’s America’s Newsroom Tuesday, media analyst Howard Kurtz called them “sad, pathetic, and disgusting” saying that Bashir is a “practitioner” of “the politics of vitriol and destruction” (video follows with transcript and commentary):
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: MSNBC host Martin Bashir is now apologizing to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin after suggesting that someone should defecate on the former VP nominee because of comments she made. He says his comments were quote “wholly unacceptable.” Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN BASHIR: I wanted to take this opportunity to say sorry to Mrs. Palin, and to also offer an unreserved apology to her friends and family, her supporters, our viewers, and anyone who may have heard what I said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Howard Kurtz is a Fox News media analyst and he’s the host of MediaBuzz. I mean, this is unbelievable, Howard. I don't know how you get away with saying something like this on cable news, national television. What do you think of this?
HOWARD KURTZ: Well, it’s sad, pathetic and disgusting. And Martin Bashir isn’t just a cable news host. He is a former co-anchor of Nightline. So he has had a significant journalistic career. I’m glad he apologized. He talked about the politics of vitriol and destruction of which he’s been a prior practitioner. He’s a very slashing and personal style. But where are his bosses at MSNBC? Not a syllable from the network executives. There’s been no disciplinary that we know of. No suspension of Martin Bashir even though MSNBC a couple of years ago had suspended another talk show host Ed Schultz for calling Laura Ingraham a right-wing slut. This is – I’m not justifying that – this is so far worse, it is so beyond the pale that I even hesitated to bring it up on my show because it’s pretty gross.
Kurtz did indeed hesitate to address this on Sunday's MediaBuzz. I tweeted him about this Sunday and he didn't respond.
As for Bashir's history of vitriol, see my commentary from Monday. But I digress:
MACCALLUM: I know. When we talked about it this morning, it was just, how do you even verbalize what this man said? And yet, you know, he said it, and he has apologized. I mean, you make a good point. Ed Schultz was suspended. Alec Baldwin suspend as well. I’m not sure why Martin Bashir is getting treated so differently, especially given the fact that what he said in most people’s minds is more reprehensible than what these two folks said on their shows. I mean, where does this go from here? I mean, how is it that he is able to keep doing this show after having said this? Can you imagine – as you point out I think - if someone of the caliber of his competitors at that hour – Neal Cavuto or Jake Tapper - said anything like this about Hillary Clinton or any other public figure what would be going on in this country?
What would be going on in this country? This would be headline news leading to their immediate termination and likely the end of their career.
What no one wants to admit is that it's totally acceptable to say anything you want about Sarah Palin. Period. But I once again digress:
KURTZ: Right. I wrote that in my Fox News column, and MSNBC would be jumping up and down about this all day long. And now what Sarah Palin – who’s a Fox News contributor – said, she gave a controversial speech in which she likened the national debt to slavery. A lot of people didn’t like that. I think it is fair game for criticism, but to talk about it.
And here’s another important point, Martha: this wasn't an offhand, off the cuff remark of the type that many of us might make when you’re on live television a lot. This was a long scripted read off of a teleprompter in which he talked about the way slaves were punished in the 1750s, and wished that Sarah Palin would be a good candidate for that kind of punishment, namely defecation. That means an executive producer had to see it in advance. So it is amazing to me that A he said it – I’m glad that he apologized – but that MSNBC hasn't done anything about this. And I can’t quite figure it out.
What this means is that people other than just Bashir - maybe the executive producer - should be held accountable as well. But don't hold your breath:
MACCALLUM: Yeah, I mean, the only, I don’t know how you figure it out. It suggests they don't think it’s a big deal. That when it comes to certain people, you know, all bets are off it and it’s okay to pick on these because of their beliefs I guess.
KURTZ: Right, you know, I hear a lot of harsh things said on cable news, not just by liberals either. But to bring the discourse down to this level. I mean, he starts out by calling Palin a dunce and an idiot, and that’s par for the course for Martin Bashir, and I guess that that plays to the MSNBC base. He clearly despises Republicans.
But to go this step further, and to not have anything said about it by his network and to still be on the air the next day – he said it on Friday, he was on the air yesterday, Monday, when he made the apology - says something about the standards at the network, and I think the criticism is going to build and that MSNBC is going to be forced to address these remarks by Martin Bashir.
I'm not sure Kurtz is right on this. This could all be a distant memory to folks at MSNBC by Wednesday.