Kurtz on Katie Couric's Gun Scandal: 'You Are Blowing a Hole in the Credibility of Your Work'

May 26th, 2016 10:35 PM

Fox News Channel is pretty much the only national broadcast or cable news outlet that's talking about Katie Couric's deceptive editing of silence into a conversation with Virginia gun-rights advocates. (The list of skippers includes NPR newscasts and the PBS NewsHour.)

This morning on America's Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer insisted it must be called a distortion. and Mediabuzz host Howard Kurtz thought the trick was indefensible. "You are blowing a hole in the credibility of your work," he insisted.

BILL HEMMER: You called it a distortion. It is, Howie. 

HOWARD KURTZ: There is no other word to describe it. And when I first saw this, I felt pretty confident that when this came to the attention of the producers and to Katie Couric, that they would say ‘yes, this was a mistake. We are sorry, we regret this, and we’re going to change it or fix it somehow.’ Instead, you know, ‘I’m sorry anyone was offended, or made to look bad.’ They’re kind of digging in, and this is not a close call. This was not a question of “well, how much time did their views get?” The rest of the documentary might be fine. But this – you are blowing a hole in the credibility of your work, and I just don’t think it can be defended. 

Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple was also a bit shocked by the statement put out by the film’s producer Stephanie Soechtig: 

“There are a wide range of views expressed in the film. My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.”

Wemple rebutted this statement:

Here the Erik Wemple Blog stroke our gray beard and reflect: In the years we’ve covered and watched media organizations, we’ve scarcely seen a thinner, more weaselly excuse than the one in the block above. For starters, it appears to count as an admission that this segment of the documentary was edited. The artistic “pause” provides the viewer not a “moment to consider this important question”; it provides viewers a moment to lower their estimation of gun owners. That’s it. As far as the rest of the statement, adults in 2016 may no longer write the phrase “apologize if anyone felt that way” and preserve their standing as professionals. To compound matters, here’s the accompanying statement from Couric:

“I support Stephanie’s statement and am very proud of the film.”

That, from the Katie Couric of Yahoo News, of CBS Evening News, of 60 Minutes, of the Today show and so on.

Many of those who sampled the discrepancy between the video and the audiotape were already enraged by the depiction of these gun owners. The statements from Soechtig and Couric will surely intensify the backlash, as well they should. An apology, retraction, re-editing, whatever it is that filmmakers do to make amends — all of it needs to happen here.

On the Fox News show Outnumberered on Thursday, Jonah Goldberg asserted liberals have been "editing in silence" from 60 Minutes to Michael Moore. Meghan McCain launched into Couric:

MEGHAN McCAIN: When people talk about the liberal media bias and liberals sort of like, think that's an exaggeration, this is exactly what they’re talking about, and Katie Couric has been one of the worst offenders of this for years and years and years. I’m not surprised by this. If I were an NRA, I am an NRA member, but I would never do an interview like this with someone like this because you know they're going to doctor it. You know they’re gonna make you look bad. This is why people don’t do interviews with Katie Couric. And this is why no conservative woman should ever do it.  

And it's one step over from the McCains to Sarah Palin, who did submit to Couric's liberal bias in an overly long taped interview in 2008. Palin joked on her Facebook page today: "Nahhh, Katie Couric would never edit an interview to make a conservative look bad. What a piece of work 'The Perky One' is!"

PS: Reason TV put Couric's deceptive editing in satirical perspective:

PPS: NPR's David Folkenflik and CNN's Brian Stelter have posted Couric pieces online. So why would these networks think this story didn't deserve air time?