Daily Beast "parts company" with Howard Kurtz for erroneous blog post about Jason Collins

What does a guy known for one of the longest-running conflicts of interest in media and famous for haughtily pronouncing the Anthony Weiner scandal a hoax on day one have to do to get fired? Answer: Make a sloppy mistake about a man who’s under the left’s protection, and do it at a moment when his employer might be looking for reasons to fire him.

Kurtz wrote a post criticizing Collins, the NBA player who just came out as gay, for not coming clean about the fact that he had once been engaged to a woman in his big Sports Illustrated piece. But Collins hadn’t omitted that detail; it was right there in the SI story. Evidently Kurtz couldn’t be bothered to read through an article he was writing about. Embarrassing. Also embarrassing is that when he was called on it, he didn’t come clean himself. He revised the post to say that even if Collins didn’t omit the detail about the engagement, he shouldn’t have “downplayed” it. But Collins didn’t really “downplay” it. It just wasn’t hugely germane to the story of him coming out as a pro athlete except to show that he’d felt sufficiently pressured to be a “normal” guy that he once came close to marrying a woman.

Normally that’s fodder for a day’s worth of humiliation on Twitter and a round of “Howard Kurtz is a moron and you should never watch his show, ever” blog posts, with everyone soon to move on to a new shiny object. Not today:

The Daily Beast has retracted a May 2, 2013, blog post by Howard Kurtz titled “Jason Collins’ Other Secret.” The piece contained several errors, resulting in a misleading characterization of NBA player Collins and the story he co-wrote in Sports Illustrated in which he came out as gay…

The Daily Beast sincerely regrets Kurtz’s error—and any implication that Collins attempted to hide or obscure the engagement.

Full retraction? Okay. The piece was sloppy and then weaselly about the mistake. But then that wasn’t enough:

The Daily Beast is dropping Howard Kurtz, the veteran media critic who made headlines this week for his erroneous report about NBA star Jason Collins.

“The Daily Beast and Howard Kurtz have parted company,” Tina Brown, the site’s editor in chief, said in a statement sent to POLITICO.

The decision comes after Kurtz published a blog post that falsely claimed Collins, who announced he was gay in an article for Sports Illustrated, had neglected to mention his previous engagement to a woman.

Ironically, earlier on the same day that Kurtz wrote the engagement piece, he wrote a separate post marveling at the effusive media adoration of Collins when most of the country seemed to be taking the announcement in stride — which is itself a sign of progress in social tolerance of gays. He wasn’t critical of Collins; he wrote that he “deserves credit for stepping forward” and “deserves to be treated with respect.” His criticism was reserved for ESPN’s Chris Broussard for “lecturing Collins about his religion and his sexuality.” Point being, there’s no reason to think animosity drove Kurtz’s later mistake. In most other cases, that would mean eating some shinola publicly and then forgetting about it. Again, not today. And John Nolte knows why:

Right. It wasn’t just the mistake, it was at whose expense the mistake was made. 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.

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