On CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz slammed the recent coverage of the birthers and Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Kurtz specifically pointed to his network’s own Lou Dobbs. Kurtz compared Dobbs’ coverage to giving air time to flat earth people, and he called the coverage irresponsible and ludicrous.
Here is the video courtesy of Media Matters:
Kurtz started off by asking, “These are ludicrous claims. Why give the birthers any airtime?” Then, he went after Dobbs, “Lou Dobbs on his radio show said, “I believe the president is a citizen of the United States.” But he keeps raising these questions, complaining about criticism from “limp-minded, lily-livered lefties.” Is it responsible for Dobbs and others to go on the air, talk about these claims, demand proof, when we have seen a copy of the birth certificate? When Hawaii officials say that Barack Obama was born there in 1961?”
He later said, “Just to come back to CNN’s role, Jon Klein the CNN president put out an email memo saying it seems this story is dead, but the Dobbs show keeps raising it although Kitty Pilgrim filling in for Lou Dobbs read a statement on the air saying there is overwhelming evidence that proves his birth certificate is real, so does this amount to giving airtime to flat earth people?”
I would argue that it isn’t wrong for the media to be covering this. In fact, the media should have been debunking this nonsense when it started, but instead they ignored the Internet, and this fringe movement fester until they were left with no other choice but to confront it when it broke into the mainstream. Kurtz is the nation’s most prominent media critic, and he has been catching some criticism of his own by not writing about CNN and Dobbs.
Except for Lou Dobbs, most of the coverage of the birthers has been focused on debunking their conspiracy theory. I disagree with Kurtz that the mainstream media should have not given the birthers any airtime. Without being exposed, their crazy fringe antics would have continued to live on and maybe even grow. The best way to address the fringe is not to ignore it, but to confront and debunk their wild theories.
If this keeps up CNN will have to wonder if it is worth keeping Dobbs around. He doesn’t come close to winning his 7 PM (ET) slot. Many nights, he is battling with the 7 PM rerun of MSNBC’s Hardball for second place. If CNN ever decides to revamp their lineup, and with their ratings struggles changes will need to come at some point, it will be interesting to see if Dobbs fits into their future plans.
CNN can’t keep debunking the birther conspiracies, while having a host on their airwaves who continues to advance them. Something is going to have to give here. My guess is that unless Dobbs does something to completely embarrass the network, his bosses will continue to turn a blind eye, and wait for this story to go away.