This week The Daily Beast‘s Washington Bureau Chief Howard Kurtz scolded journos for writing up stories on the Mitt Romney Mormon issue. Kurtz, who has been charging journos with inflating the presidential speculation of NJ Gov. Chris Christie and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, charged that the Mormon stories were just rehashed from Romney’s last presidential campaign.
Kurtz specifically called out the Sunday Politico story written by Alexander Burns. He wrote: “Still, the floodgates have opened. Politico‘s lead story on Sunday was headlined ‘Mitt Romney’s Mormon Issue Returns.’ Other candidates were asked about the Jeffress rhetoric on the talk shows, and as the new week began it was the hot topic on television and online. Will the press keep pounding away at this anti-Mormon outburst? Why, 50 years after JFK broke the Catholic barrier, is a candidate’s religion again emerging as a major issue?”
Burns bristled and took his irritation to Twitter. It was somewhat passive aggressive. The reporter never mentioned the Mormon issue, but pointed to Kurtz’s failure to cover WeinerGate with any timeliness. He retweeted a four-month-old tweet from Kurtz in which he suggests that the media not get prematurely excited about WeinerGate. Kurtz: “To twerps demanding I cover Anthony Weiner Twitter scandal: Whole thing appears to be faked. Sometimes it pays to wait for the facts.”
The stats side with Burns and the other reporters who have been covering Romney’s Mormon roots as polls show that 20-25 percent of Americans think it’s a valid issue in a presidential election. While Burns’ RT struck some reporters as childish, Kurtz admonishing reporters on an issue Americans are concerned about is foolish and, as one campaign reporter put it, “turns a blind eye toward reality in the name of political correctness.”
Kurtz also reasoned that covering the Romney Mormon issue ignites an entertainment style of reporting that reporters find irresistable — something, by the way, that The Daily Beast never does (eye roll). “Romney’s disciplined style doesn’t lend itself to the Trump-style entertainment that many in the media seem to prefer in 2011,” he wrote. “A religious controversy, by contrast, touches enough hot buttons to heat up the debate.”
UPDATE: Turns out Burns did not (consciously at least) pick on Howie for attacking his piece. That’s not to say he wasn’t tweaking him — he was — but it wasn’t a revenge tactic. “That retweet wasn’t a response to Kurtz’s story, which I didn’t see until Fishbowl posted it today. It was in the middle of the Romney-Christie endorsement event and my Twitter feed was flooded with people saying that was being overhyped by the media, and I had a flashback. Nothing more elaborate.”