Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A (Dangerous) Gaffe

In the world of apologies (Joe Wilson, Kanye West, Michael Vick), there are apologies and there are apologies. And then there is the not-apology; or non-apology; or, "you're wrong and I'm right."

Guess which Howie Kurtz of The Washington Post and CNN's Reliable Sources has issued? This, from an online chat, entitled, "Glenn Beck, Protest Coverage, More" he held on September 14:

Los Angeles, Ca.: Hey, Howie, in your column today you say that Kenya is Obama's "native country." Are you a "Birther" now?

Howard Kurtz: Oy. I obviously meant the country of his father. He wrote a book about it.


As long as Kurtz claimed context- "I obviously meant...."- here is the section, subtitled "Back in Kenya," of the column, "Beck And The Mainstream," in which Kurtz's comment appeared:

Back in Kenya

The Boston Globe has an interesting piece from Obama's native country on attempts to cash in:


"The price of land here has skyrocketed because of rampant speculation about an Obama family museum that the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism has promised to build. And there have been some modest, but tangible, signs of progress that seem tied to the village's new notoriety. Within a week of Obama's election victory last year, the government began to pave the main road to town. It also brought in an electricity and water lines to Obama's step-grandmother's compound.

"Some relatives have also set up foundations, trying to raise money for development projects using the Obama name. And strangers are suddenly a common sight in the market, attracted by safari companies that advertise heritage tours about the first African-American US president. A tourist hotel is planned.

"But what is missing is a direct infusion of cash from Obama or the U.S. government, say local residents and members of the extended Obama family, some of whom say they have relayed funding requests through e-mails and letters to Washington."


Admittedly, "oy" is coastal U.S.A. for "ohmigosh," suggesting that Kurtz realizes that for whatever reason, he shouldn't have written what he did. Nonetheless, he claims "I obviously meant the country of his father." But nothing in what Kurtz wrote precludes an implication that Kenya is the native country of Barack Obama himself. Nothing. Instead, he cleverly turns the charge on the questioner, reminding him/her: "He wrote a book about it."

Of course, Howie Kurz, being better informed than the average conservative "Birther," does not believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. However, he strongly implied that the President was born in Kenya. And when Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and other snake-oil salesmen pick up on this, it's unlikely they will put it (or practically anything else in the universe) into perspective. The "obviously I meant the country of his father. He wrote a book about it," is not likely to be omitted in service of their right-wing hucksterism.

Your response may vary, but response should have been unequivocal and decisive, perhaps something along the lines of: I carelessly inferred something which no thinking American believes.

Aside from the talk-show hosts who want to bring Obama's presidency down, and those individuals who aren't aware that these media personalities are making things up to stir controversy and ratchet up ratings, virtually everyone realizes that Barack Obama was born in the State of Hawaii, which entered the union the same year as Sarah Palin's State of Alaska.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Kurtz is an interesting fellow. I try to watch Reliable Sources and give him some respect, but i've basically concluded the show always hits the same conclusions and it doesn't offer much beyond the obvious fact that the media overreports stupid political things because they get better ratings and people like it. One guess will argue this, another will complain about it.

I think this native country business was a mistake, but a stupid one he should of just acknowledged more openly. I hope he starts actually checking the reliability of media sources on his show and calling them out on it, rather than repeating week after week that the media overfocused on this or that, or the tired old "is the media responsible for bad coverage of this person or is this person just blaming the media to help himself?"

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