Mark Steyn was in rare form earlier today, discussing Howard Kurtz’s departure from the Daily Beast, on the Hugh Hewitt Show:
HUGH: Howard Kurtz, who I like a lot; I’ve enjoyed Howard’s work for years, has departed the Daily Beast after a column he wrote about basketball player Jason Collins. And the speculation in the New York Times this afternoon is that he got that so wrong that the Daily Beast people are letting him go. He actually didn’t get that much wrong, Mark Steyn. Has this become the real red-line in media, not chemical weapons, but commenting on someone’s ‘coming out’ announcement?
STEYN: Yeah. I think it was something to do with the fact that [Kurtz] accused [Collins] of not having mentioned that he’d once been engaged to a woman of the opposite sex.
HUGH: And [Collins] had mentioned it.
STEYN: And he had in fact come clean and admitted that he had once been a practicing heterosexual. But for trying to hang the stigma of covering up of his previous attempt at heterosexuality around him — I mean, I don’t even understand [laughter, cross-talk] this is so deep inside liberal rings… [more laughter, cross-talk]
Hugh: You’re absolute right – it’s like the runes of…[more laughter]
STEYN: …For erroneously attempting to hang the stigma of being ashamed of attempted heterosexuality around this guy’s neck, Howard Kurtz was made to walk the plank.
Look, Tina Brown is a very successful person, and a great survivor. My view is that Tina did not get rid of [Kurtz] for that reason alone. In fact, I’m sure it’s the sort of thing that in different circumstances, Tina would have been laughing her head off. I think she was glad to have an opportunity to get rid of Howard Kurtz [cross-talk]
HUGH: Well, you touched on it at the beginning in a way that made me tear up, actually. There is this Department of That Which Cannot Be Said At Any Time in every liberal media organization, and you have to go there and get certain — yeah, Howard made a mistake, big deal. It’s the occasion though of dumping him, and it makes it look like it’s because of this, when they might just said he’s got too many irons in the fire, and he’s gone.
STEYN: Well, I think it was the suggestion that [Kurtz] had attempted in a way to take the earth-shattering significance of the occasion that we had here some pristine gay trailblazer, and that Howie Kurtz had somehow attempted to muddy that picture. And so had taken away from this iconic gay moment that was so iconically gay in all its fabulous iconic gayness that the President of the United State took time off from not doing anything about Syria, and not doing anything about Benghazi, and not doing anything about the Boston Bombers, and not doing anything about anything else, to personally call this guy and congratulate him on his courage and heroism in becoming, if I understand it correctly, I think he’s the first American to proclaim himself to be openly gay, and that is a historic moment.
Speaking of which, in his own take on Kurtz’s departure, Ace does a great job placing Collins’ announcement into context:
I don’t have any problem with Jason Collins coming out of the closet. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. I’m glad he has. I think it will have some good effects. I think, generally, Truth is better than Lies.
But I do understand the problem the right has, at least up to a point.
The problem is the same one regarding Michelle Obama’s much-vaunted beauty. I’ve said this and I’ll say it again: I would never say Michelle Obama is unattractive. I think she’s reasonably attractive. Dividing up women of her age, I’d say she’s on the “more attractive” side of things. Maybe, I don’t know, top 33%.
She’s not an unattractive woman at all.
The problem comes when someone who is modestly attractive, and yet beloved by the left as An Hero For Us All, gets the Full Tonguebath treatment and we have to hear again, and again, and again, and again, and again until our ears begin to bleed, that this is not merely a modestly attractive woman, but in fact one of the most sublimely and incandescently beautiful women to ever bless the soil of the earth with the sweat of her lovely foot.
This is where Truth becomes Lie — and furthermore, it’s truth that becomes a highly politicized lie, not an inoffensive or anodyne white lie, but a Lie With An Agenda. And that agenda is forcing you to assent to the Group’s Lie in order to demonstrate yourself as Loyal to the Group or as an Outsider who is to be Ostracized for Failing to Demonstrate His Loyalty Upon Request.
It’s a Weaponized Falsehood, a Shibboleth, a Loyalty Oath, that requires you to Assent to Falsehood or become a Martyr for Honesty.
This is the right’s problem with Jason Collins (or let me say: this is the understandable and defensible and quite-proper problem with Jason Collins’ disclosure; I do not defend other objections).
It’s not that he hasn’t done something that took a bit of guts here. He has. At the end of a career, or the likely end of a career, he did gamble a little on whether or not he’d be ostracized for his admission.
But by acknowledging this took some guts I do not agree that he demonstrated the courage of Audie Murphy, to be celebrated throughout the annals of history as The One Who Dared All.
I think he dared some. Some. An amount for which I do think he should be afforded some applause.
At Hot Air, Allahpundit adds that Kurtz was spreading himself too thin with various side projects, and for Tina Brown, his snafu yesterday provides plenty of cover for his dismal, since her fellow leftists will eat it up:
Ace calls Collins, whose self-outing both he and I think is a good thing, this week’s Sandra Fluke, a hero-victim of special momentary prominence on whose behalf outrage will be felt even in the event of an innocuous offense. And Tina Brown, canny operator that she is, seized on it to dump Kurtz because she knew most of her readership would appreciate it — even though she might have had other reasons. Turns out people at the Beast reportedly weren’t happy about all the time Kurtz was putting in at the “Daily Download” site. Another source spoke to WaPo:
A source at The Daily Beast suggested Thursday that the parting of ways was a matter of accrual, saying, “It definitely wasn’t a reaction to what happened yesterday with the Sports Illustrated post. It’s been something that for quite some time — there’ve been some errors like this.”…
The source added, “Howie’s been quite distracted with other ventures. We were at the point where it was interfering with the quality of The Daily Beast.” Those other ventures consist of Kurtz’s work for the Daily Download and his CNN program, both of which, the source says, were fully allowable under the terms of Kurtz’s employment with The Daily Beast…
The result of Kurtz’s divided attention: “It kind of lets those people down,” says the source, referring to Daily Beast staffers, “when you have the feeling that someone in a senior position in the organization isn’t as focused.”
It’s a “matter of accrual,” yet he’s let go on the very day that the Beast publicly upbraids him for the Collins post by issuing a retraction. Whether as a pander to her readers or simply to create a more media-friendly angle for the big Kurtz/Beast divorce, Brown wants people to know that making a mistake about Collins was a bridge too far.
Oh, by the way, CNN’s reportedly looking to dump Kurtz too. Not because of this — although, a la Brown, it’d be a sweet hook — but as part of their overall housecleaning project.
Update: Jonathan Last notes that other Beast writers have made major errors before and retained their gigs, since they were in error about the “right” people.
Shades of British Labour staffer Jo Moore, who circulated an interoffice memo that 9/11 was “a very good day to get out anything we want to bury,” as Steyn noted in October of 2001, to bring this post full circle.
Update: More from Tim Graham at Newsbusters, who notes that the TV Newser Website is quoting a source at CNN who says that Kurtz’s deal with the network will likely be his last. Graham also spotted a Tweet from 20-something McKay Coppins, a former Daily Beast staffer turned Buzzfeed political editor (two guesses as to his political worldview), who, as Graham writes, “suggested the bad blood wasn’t new: ‘As someone who worked at the Beast for a while, I can say that rumors of Howard Kurtz’s departure have been flying for at least 2 years,'” Coppins tweeted.