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“There has been no status change with Howard Kurtz; he remains the host of Reliable Sources,” said a network spokesperson Friday. “He will address this issue on the program this weekend.”
CNN said Thursday that it was reviewing Kurtz’s status at the network in the wake of his dismissal from The Daily Beast on Thursday, one day after he posted a column questioning whether NBA player Jason Collins was entirely forthcoming in a Sports Illustrated story in which he came out as a gay man.
Kurtz erroneously asserted that Collins withheld information that he once was engaged to a woman. In fact, Collins did say he dated women and was engaged in the SI story and again in an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. The backlash on Twitter was swift and harsh. Kurtz revised the column to say that Collins downplayed his experiences with women. But Daily Beast retracted the entire post and Daily Beast founder Tina Brown issued a tweet on Thursday saying the site had “parted company” with Kurtz.
But Kurtz’s significant involvement with the media website The Daily Download — where he is on the advisory board and is compensated for freelance contributions — also raised the specter of conflict of interest at the Beast and possibly CNN. He has written columns for the site and appeared in videos — mostly with Daily Download founder Lauren Ashburn. And Ashburn has been a regular guest on Reliable Sources.
He’ll address his departure from the Daily Beast and involvement with The Daily Download on Reliable Sources on Sunday. (The program airs at 11 a.m. on CNN.) But the controversy comes at a delicate time for the network — which is in the process of rebuilding under new CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker.
The Collins gaffe is not the first for Kurtz. Last year, he wrote a piece for the Daily Beast quoting Rep. Darrell Issa when in fact Kurtz had been talking to Issa’s spokesman on the phone. Six weeks after the original story, he wrote a post correcting it and explaining that he did not realize he was talking to spokesman Kurt Bardella. That post appears to have been deleted from the Beast’s site.
He also was forced to retract a quote attributed to Rep. Nancy Pelosi in which Pelosi supposedly criticized the Obama administration.
Kurtz began hosting Reliable Sources in 1998 when he was the media critic at The Washington Post. He left in 2010 — after 29 years there — to become Washington bureau chief at the Daily Beast. At the time, his defection from print to digital was hailed as a tidal shift in the momentum from old media to new media.
Editor’s note: The author has appeared as a guest on CNN’s Reliable Sources.
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