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WaPo and CNN’s Howie Kurtz: Should he be Gonged?

gong.jpg While WaPo media columnist and CNN host Howard Kurtz claimed to be “just poking fun” on his CNN show “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, a segment sent shock waves around town as several D.C. journalists were steamed watching him go after Politico‘s Patrick Gavin. He even slapped on screen an e-mail Gavin once wrote to him.

In that e-mail, Gavin proposed that Kurtz have him on as a guest to discuss the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “Maybe in the next decade,” Kurtz said sarcastically on his Sunday show.

Kurtz has gotten flak on this mattter from Mediate, Gawker, Media Matters and The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan.

Why did Kurtz do it? He was irked by a story Gavin wrote two weeks ago detailing the Top 20 guests Kurtz has had on his show in the past decade. The story said the show had a “clubby feel” to it in that Kurtz has the same 20 guests on again and again. The story said Kurtz has never had a D.C. media writer (such as former City Paper and now TBD’s Erik Wemple and Yahoo! News’s Michael Calderone). Gavin wrote that Kurtz has D.C. gossip columnists on his show from WaPo, but no other publication. Gavin admitted to falling into both categories.

Question for Kurtz: Are all ordinary e-mails to you now fair game for your show and column?

After taking criticism from Mediaite’s Rachel Sklar(“Oy @HowardKurtz, you read @PWGavin’s email on air?? What about those ‘unwritten rules’ you seemed so protective of last week??”), Kurtz tweeted on Sunday: “@pwgavin is a good guy and entitled to his criticism (however misguided). We were just poking a little fun today on the teevee.”

Oddly, Kurtz’s actions come on the heels of him publishing this WaPo column over the weekend, writing, “Everything is supposed to be “transparent” these days, but is every word you utter — or e-mail, or text, or tweet, or mutter within earshot of a reporter — now fair game? And couldn’t that drive our discourse toward the pathologically cautious and mind-numbingly banal?”

Question #2 for Kurtz: In the past when Gavin has pitched to be on the show have you responded favorably and/or encouraged him to continue pitching you?

Kurtz tone has markedly shifted from his Sunday program, even saying he’ll have Gavin on before a decade passes. He does dispute Gavin’s numbers story concerning his guests. He replied to questions (see after jump for a complete list of questions) posed by FishbowlDC today: “I tried to deliver my response with a light touch and I hope people didn’t take it as anything more than that. Patrick’s e-mail to me wasn’t off the record, and as he himself says, he’s pretty unabashed in trying to book himself on television shows. I would never reveal anything anyone told me off the record. I admit to being proud of the way that Reliable Sources reaches out to a wide range of guests, including some who have never or only rarely been on TV. Our numbers were different than Gavin’s, and in any event I felt free to mention anyone who has been on numerous times. I encourage journalists to approach me about being on the program — including Patrick in the past — and yes, we’ll probably have him on without waiting a decade.”

So far, Gavin isn’t retaliating. He had no further comment for FishbowlDC other than what he remarked to HuffPost over the weekend. He tweeted Sunday: “Oooo…finding some fun old emails from @howardkurtz (fear not, Howie: Won’t go there…)”

Read about Kurtz’s interview with ex-WaPo blogger Dave Weigel and big blunder Kurtz made on the story after the jump…


Kurtz had the real ex-JournoList writer Dave Weigel on his Sunday show. Kurtz continues to maintain repeatedly that Weigel wrote the e-mails to JournoList before he took the blogger job with WaPo three months ago.

This is not so. In at least two e-mails that FishbowlDC reported, Weigel instructed members to stop reading The Examiner after the publications gossip column wrote items about his dancing. He also wrote disparaging things about the Examiner’s chief political correspondent Byron York. Note to Kurtz: The Examiner’s gossip item on Weigel’s dancing is dated June 14 – this would make it impossible for Weigel to have written the e-mail prior to three months ago as Kurtz bizarrely continues to assert.

Kurtz remarked to FishbowlDC on this matter, saying, “As for Dave Weigel, I attributed to him the assertion that his controversial e-mails were all written before he joined The Washington Post. I don’t know because I’ve never been a member of JournoList.” (Even so, didn’t Kurtz think to check Weigel’s assertion?)

The CNN host appears testy when he perceives a slight coming his way. Over the long weekend, the NY Observer published a piece on Weigel, directing readers to stories by Kurtz and the NYT’s David Carr, writing in the lead: “Howard Kurtz and David Carr took 10 days to chew the cud of Dave Weigel.”

Kurtz snapped over Twitter: NY Observer says I’m late to Dave Weigel story. Funny, I remember covering it the day he quit. Guess that was a snark holiday.

A final question to Kurtz: Are we all just having fun yet?

Questions I posed to Kurtz
1. Have you had second thoughts about publishing Patrick Gavin’s e-mail on air, especially in light of a rather detailed and thoughtful critique from Mediaite’s Rachel Sklar http://www.mediaite.com/online/howard-kurtz-blasts-an-ant-with-a-nuclear-weapon/
If so, do you expect to apologize to Gavin?

2. Why did you publish Gavin’s personal email to you? It
appears you think exposing people’s “private” e-mails is wrong and
does not abide by “unwritten rules” and would make journalism “banal”
as you put it in your column this weekend. (You wrote: Everything is supposed to be “transparent” these days, but is every word you utter — or e-mail, or text, or tweet, or mutter within earshot of a reporter — now fair game? And couldn’t that drive our discourse toward the pathologically cautious and mind-numbingly banal?)

2. In the future, do you plan to consider all e-mail correspondence
with you fair game to use in your WaPo column and on your CNN show? Since many reporters or their reps regularly pitch to appear on your show, what criteria will you use about under what circumstances you will read those emails on air?

3. Why do you keep saying Weigel wrote the JournoList e-mails before
he worked at the Post. That’s untrue considering the Examiner stories on him were written on June 14 and his emails reflected that?

4. Why did you mention Sharon Waxman and Joan Walsh on your CNN show as examples of the diversity of your guests? Gavin’s story was an enterprise story about your Top 20 guests — and they didn’t make the list. Was that not your understanding of the story?

5. In the past when Gavin or others have pitched you to be on the show, have you responded favorably and/or encouraged them to continue pitching you?

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