Howard Kurtz: Jason Collins Error was 'Sloppy and Inexcusable'

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Howard Kurtz apologized yesterday. (Credit: CNN via Mediaite, screenshot)

Howard Kurtz apologized May 5 on his CNN program Reliable Sources for his now-retracted Daily Beast article about NBA player Jason Collins.

“It was a mistake that I made and it was sloppy and inexcusable…I am truly sorry,” Kurtz said.

As iMediaEthics wrote last week, Kurtz’s article claimed Collins, who plays with the NBA Washington Wizards and who this month came out as gay in a Sports Illustrated cover story, didn’t fess up to having once been engaged to a woman. But, Collins had – not only in the Sports Illustrated story, but also in a recent interview about the news.

At first, Kurtz edited the text of his May 1 article, which originally said Collins “left one little part out” by not saying he was engaged, to read that Collins “downplayed one detail.” Later, the Daily Beast posted a correction about the error, and Kurtz issued “apologies” on Twitter. The next day, the Daily Beast formally retracted Kurtz’s post and Daily Beast editor Tina Brown announced that the Daily Beast “parted company” with Kurtz.

During Kurtz’s May 5 broadcast of Reliable Sources (video), Kurtz discussed his error with Politico’s Dylan Byers and NPR’s David Folkenflik, Mediaite reported.  Kurtz admitted to having “screwed up” not only in the error, but also because his (wrong) point about not disclosing the engagement wasn’t sensitive.  “I was wrong even to raise that, and it showed a lack of sensitivity to the issue,” Kurtz said.  “Also I didn’t give him a chance to respond to my account…My first correction to the story was not as complete and as full as it should have been.”

Kurtz added an apology to Collins:

“For all those reasons I apologize to readers, to viewers, most importantly to Jason Collins and his ex-fiance. I hope that this very candid response may earn back your trust over time. It’s something that I’m committed to doing.”

When asked by Folkenflik why he didn’t apologize immediately, Kurtz explained that he was in denial of the error, saying he had “convinced myself that I could soften the wording,” according to Mediaite.  “I wasn’t thinking very clearly” in not apologizing immediately, he said.

Kurtz also denied that he was ousted from the Daily Beast because of the Collins error, instead saying that he had been planning on leaving.

But, Kurtz admitted he “should be held to a higher standard” since he is a media critic.  “I deserve the criticism, I accept it and I’m determined to learn from this episode.”

When asked by Byers about a series of errors he’s made in the past few years (more below), Kurtz said “I pride myself on double and triple checking the facts…But there are times being a human being I have slipped up. I ask people to look at the totality of my record, but it’s certainly fair to point out where I have fallen short.”

3 Other Kurtz Errors

The Collins error was the latest from Kurtz, who in January apologized to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren for wrongly quoting her as describing Hillary Clinton’s hospitalization at the time as an “immaculate concussion.” (Laura Ingraham did say that, though.) Kurtz didn’t even write the article that contained the error, but inserted the misquote to another Daily Beast writer’s work.

In 2011, he admitted his article interviewing U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was actually with Issa’s spokesperson. Even worse, Issa’s spokesperson alerted Kurtz to the error shortly after Kurtz’s article was published, but Kurtz didn’t get around to correcting for six weeks.

Also in 2011, the Daily Beast corrected an October 2 article by Kurtz because his article misquoted Nancy Pelosi.  In that case, Kurtz apparently misinterpreted notes from another reporter’s work.


Kurtz & the Daily Download

Around the same time as the Collins error, The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone questioned Kurtz’s promotion of a website called The Daily Download.

As Calderone explained, Kurtz “has been regularly contributing to, and heavily promoting” the Daily Download, a site that identifies him as on its board of advisers.

Kurtz “regularly appears in videos with its founder and editor Lauren Ashburn. They often discuss the same media-related controversies and issues that Kurtz covers for The Daily Beast and as host of CNN’s Reliable Sources,” Calderone reported.

Kurtz told Calderone that he does “receive some freelance compensation” for his work with the site “but the advisory board is an unpaid honorary position with no oversight.”  (More on the background of Kurtz’s relationship with the Daily Download at the Huffington Post.)

Kurtz: Collins “Played Both Sides of the Court”

Kurtz also remarked about Collins in a video for the Daily Download, saying according to the Guardian, “Obviously he, in basketball terms, has played both sides of the court.”

Byers asked him why he had made fun of Collins in the Daily Download interview.  “I shouldn’t have done that. My tone was completely inappropriate,” Kurtz said, describing Collins as “courageous.”

The Daily Download’s Lauren Ashburn also issued a “retraction and apology” for her video with Kurtz about Collins.  Ashburn said in part:

“I knew Kurtz was going to make this point about Collins before we taped, and I didn’t double check to make sure it was accurate. As soon as I knew about the mistake, I pulled the video off of the site without acknowledging and correcting the mistake. That was another error.”

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Howard Kurtz: Jason Collins Error was ‘Sloppy and Inexcusable’

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