Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fair game

-- by Dave

How did we know beforehand that Howard Kurtz would come trotting to the defense of the right-wing pundits plunging over that cliff in pursuit of the Frost family?

Gosh, I guess we're just psychic or something.

Kurtz, in an online discussion yesterday:
Austin, Texas: Howard, I'm not sure what I expected from your discussion yesterday on Reliable Sources in regard to the Graeme Frost debate, but I really left feeling you didn't do it much justice. "The consensus seems to be that the questions were fair, but certainly the tone can be mean-spirited in a lot of these controversies and it is really striking when a 12-year-old boy is involved."

Let's concede the questions were fair and the tone wrong -- but the whole point was that people ran with inaccurate answers to those questions. Kudos to you for half-mentioning it earlier in the segment, but it really seemed like the main point and you guys really didn't discuss it.

Howard Kurtz: But every guest was offered the opportunity to weigh in. Was it fair to question a family's qualifications for the S-CHIP insurance program after Democrats had made the 12-year-old boy a symbol by having him deliver its weekly radio address? My feeling is yes; you can't say one party can trot out such a symbol and no one can criticize. I also recited instances in which I felt the criticism was misleading: yes, the kid attends a private school, but on scholarship. Yes, the dad owns a home but bought it for $55,000 in a rundown neighborhood in 1990. In short, I tried to put the debate into perspective.

Um, Howard, dude: You still didn't answer the question -- namely, why were so many people willing to run false information about them? Try again.
Rockville Md.: I have a question that has been bugging me for some time and I hope you can address it. I have folloewd the recent stories about Graeme Frost, the child who gave the Deomocratic response about SCHIP, and what some commentators are calling the "Swift Boating" of Frost by right-wing groups. Realizing that the jury may still be out about Frost: It is one thing when politicians slam each other, but when someone goes after a private citizen, don't libel and slander laws ever come into play?

Howard Kurtz: Libel and slander laws only come into play when you say something that is both inaccurate and damaging about someone. Whether or not the Frost family should be considered too well-off to qualify for federal health benefits doesn't seem to fall in that category. When the parents agreed to make their son available to the Democratic Party as a spokesman for the program, surely they must have expected that their financial situation would become part of the debate. I am not, for the record, in favor of beating up on 12-year-old boys, but the family did willingly step into the political arena.

Because, you know, every citizen who takes a public political stand deserves to have his entire life audited.
Helena, Mont.: I think there is a difference between criticizing one party's symbol for an issue and the level of venom that was directed at the Frosts -- they were criticized for not going bankrupt in order to pay their medical bills, for pete's sake. Michelle Malkin published their address and telephone number on her blog so more people could harass them. At what point do you say to criticize and at what point do you make the point that someone has gone too far in their criticism?

Howard Kurtz: The Baltimore Sun also published a picture of the Maryland family's house and asked for their tax returns, which the Frosts declined to provide. Is that a mean-spirited attack or plain old reporting?

It's plain old reporting because its purpose was not intended to denigrate the Frosts, unlike Malkin's, which was indeed a mean-spirited attack.

I do wish Media Whores Online were still around to deal with cretins like Kurtz.

[Hat tip to John Cole.]

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