Think Again: The Neverending Scandal of Howard Kurtz and The Washington Post

Crossposted with the Center for American Progress.

Back in mid-September, I received an e-mail from The Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander asking me to give him a call about some of the issues I've been raising here and elsewhere about Howard Kurtz's myriad conflicts of interest for a column Alexander planned to write. When I returned his call, however, he had already changed his mind--as is his right, of course--and decided to criticize his newspaper for not paying more attention to the kinds of issues raised by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, particularly the ACORN story.

Alexander and I did not end up speaking but he did decide to address himself to Kurtz last week. He did so in the context of first raising another alleged conflict of interest--the fact that Post reporter Juliet Eilperin covers climate change while being married to a part-time Center for American Progress Senior Fellow who also works on the issue. Alexander did not point to any actual examples where her coverage might have been compromised. He just wondered if the marriage of a reporter and a part-time CAP Senior Fellow, interested in the same things, is a conflict all by itself. (Disclosure: I do not recall ever having met either party involved, and I take no position on whether or not it constitutes a conflict.)

What I found most interesting about this context for a discussion of Kurtz, however, is the fact that Alexander never mentions that Kurtz is a married spouse with political, financial, and ideological interests in his wife's work. I mean this literally. Kurtz is married to former Republican political consultant, Sheri Annis. He frequently writes about her former and potential clients. And yet one rarely if ever sees any disclosure. (On one occasion, on CNN, Kurtz when so far as to interview and plug an author as a "remarkable woman" who was actually paying his wife--through a cutout--to promote the author's book. He added, "I should mention that my wife has done some promotion work for Kim Dozier's book.") ...

Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College. He is also a Nation columnist and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals, was recently published in paperback. He occasionally blogs at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/altercation and is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast.