Media Blackout

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As part of the brouhaha over the failed bid by radio personality Rush Limbaugh to become part owner of an NFL team, Howard Kurtz, hosting CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” interviewed Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon, who is black. Wilbon was one of several journalists who attributed unconfirmed racist statements to Limbaugh, statements that Limbaugh has denied he ever made and for which no proof exists that he ever said them. Wilbon is one of the few journalists who, at the time of this Reflection, claims to have apologized to Limbaugh, though as of yet the apology (unlike the slur) is not in print.

On “Reliable Sources,” Wilbon explained that while the particular remarks he’d attributed to Limbaugh may have been incorrect, Limbaugh is “universally reviled” by blacks. He made that claim more than once. Yet he also indicated that he had an ongoing acquaintance with Limbaugh, such that the radio show host contacted him directly to assure him that the alleged comments were false.

This did not strike Kurtz as sufficiently strange – a black man having an ongoing acquaintance with a person whom all black people revile – to require follow-up questioning on that point. Neither did the fact that two common substitute hosts for Limbaugh when he is on vacation are economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, both of whom are black. Presumably, Kurtz isn’t knowledgeable enough about Limbaugh’s show to ask follow-up questions of this sort: “Why would Sowell and Williams, who must revile Limbaugh because blacks ‘universally revile’ him, be willing to sub for, and speak highly of Limbaugh? Why have Justice Clarence Thomas and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared as guests on Limbaugh’s show if they, as blacks, revile him?”

I love learning about media errors from someone as well informed as Howard Kurtz.

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