Broadcast journalists have to think on their feet. In this case, CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz got caught in the difficult subject of Rep. Anthony Weiner‘s (D-N.Y.) “now famous bulge” as he put it.
Kurtz was sporadically giggly throughout Sunday’s segment on Weiner. He also egged his guests on to bluntly discuss penis matters and then wondered, gee willikers what happened there?
KURTZ: Does Gawker have a big advantage [uncomfortable giggle] covering this story in the way the mainstream media can’t starting with the language you can use?
MAUREEN O’CONNOR: Well, I personally only cover Capitol Hill for the underwear scandals. This is what we do. Is this relevant to Anthony Weiner‘s career as a politician? Maybe. But it’s an interesting story and from our perspective, this is what we do. We cover human interest stories. We cover the strange case of a person, a powerful person, ending up falling to the same ridiculously stupid thing that everyone does, taking a picture of his dick and getting caught doing it.
Kurtz was mildly stunned. “Okay, as I was saying, Gawker does have a different way of talking about these things — not a word that I would use on the air,” he said.
At this point some part of Kurtz (albeit a small part) was probably sincerely praying the johnson jargon would end. But penis talk is just that compelling. Again he set the guest up to say something risqué. He segued to Buzz Machine Blog Founder Jeff Jarvis by announcing that he wouldn’t be uncomfortable with the topic because they’d discussed his prostate operation [giggle] on the program before.
True enough, Jarvis didn’t hold back. “All in all, what’s the real story here?” he asked angrily and rhetorically. “That a congressman has a penis? There’s not news in that. That he wears underwear? Who cares? …We have to find some medium ground here behind the American Puritanism of ‘Oh my God,’ Congress people are sexual and the European view that ‘Of course they’re sexual.”
In the end, Kurtz apologized for O’Connor’s use of the word “dick” even though CNN never bleeped it out: “I do want to apologize for that one term that was used. I think ‘penis’ is a more adult term, at least for cable television.”