Howie Battles An Angry Mob

Howard Kurtz moderated over a more-hostile-than-normal chat yesterday that spanned such topics as President Bush’s interview on 60 Minutes, Time’s decision to bring Bill Kristol on board, and a passionate debate about whether Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann actually host news programs.

Excerpts when you click below.


Some excerpts:

    Annapolis, Md.: I’m still trying to decide what I thought of the interview last night on 60 Minutes with President Bush. I thought there were some good questions. I thought it was sympathetic to Bush especially with the meeting with the families of the people slain in Iraq. But, I left with a feeling that it didn’t go anywhere except to give a forum for Bush to restate his positions without tough follow-up. I’d appreciate your review of the interview and how you would have done it differently (if you would have done it differently).

    Howard Kurtz: I thought it was a reasonably tough interview by Scott Pelley. What you have to understand is that no matter how probing the questions are — and I’ve watched Bush be interviewed by everyone from Tim Russert to Oprah — a disciplined politician can limit himself to saying exactly what he wants to say and no more. So I don’t think the 60 Minutes segment broke much new ground, except perhaps to show Bush being rather dismissive toward the notion that Congress could cut off funding for the war.

    Washington: Sorry, a little late. Last week in your article on the attacks on Bill Kristol you commented on whether media commentators should be held accountable for their pontifications. You seemed to indicate that because Time hired a liberal commentator that having a conservative — one who missed widely on the Iraq situation early — was OK. Maybe media organizations should be held to the same standard as the diet pill commercials and be required to put qualifiers at the end of the article. Maybe something along the lines of, “None of these claims have been reviewed by experts in the field. Nothing in this article is intended for readers to use in analyzing the topic covered. Use at your own risk.”

    Howard Kurtz: I guess I thought that was implied. Does anyone seriously believe that people who pop off for a living are impeccable founts of wisdom on every possible issue?

    Lincoln, Neb.: Howard, why are you wasting print discussing Bill O’Reilly? Come one, no one takes him seriously — he’s a clown. Or, if you’re going to discuss O’Reilly, you should give equal time to those nutjobs who think that planes didn’t actually crash into the WTC on September 11. They are a kindred bunch.

    Olbermann is full of bombast, but at least he is coherent and appeals to reasonable people. O’Reilly, by contrast, draws his schtick from the Brownshirt playbook of 1939 Germany, flailing at invisible dragons and appealing to the basest elements of fear and ignorance. For that matter, why do you even cover Fox News? No journalist I know (and I know plenty) believes that is a serious news organization. Are you simply trying to appear “balanced”?

    Howard Kurtz: So all that you’ve told me is that you don’t like O’Reilly and you don’t like Fox. It so happens that O’Reilly hosts the top-rated cable news show and that Fox is the number one cable news network, so some people out there obviously have a different view. I cover everyone in the news biz without regard to whether I personally agree or disagree with what they’re saying.

    New York City: O’Reilly and Olbermann are entertainers and though I would not invite either to my home for dinner,would you agree that O’Reilly, though bombastic, at least tries to have a fair assesment of the issues even though he is decidedly conservative, while Olbermann is just obnoxiously liberal with a much stronger element of crudeness and total disrespect for the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America?

    Howard Kurtz: Again, you’re entitled to your opinion of these guys, but it’s not my job to be a theater critic. They’re both talented broadcasters. I would point out that O’Reilly has some liberals on his show, though he often just uses them as foils, while Olbermann almost never has conservatives on his show, with the exception of MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan. I think programs are more interesting when the host gets to mix it up with folks of different viewpoints.

The entire chat can be found here.