Howard Kurtz Gets Grilled Over Incorrect Jason Collins Story And Apologizes: ‘I Screwed Up’

Howard Kurtz Jason Collins

CNN media critic Howard Kurtz apologized on Sunday after a much-publicized controversy over his report on NBA player Jason Collins’ coming out as gay led to Kurtz’s ouster from the Daily Beast.

Kurtz and the Daily Beast parted ways this week after a column he wrote about Collins’ previous engagement was not factually correct, and after Kurtz initially tried to downplay a correction to that column.

Kurtz opened his CNN show, “Reliable Sources,” with an apology to Collins and to his readers:

This time, the media mistake was mine. A big one — more than one, in fact. … Here’s what happened. Here’s why I did what I did, and why it was clearly wrongly handled by me. On Monday, I read the Sports Illustrated article by Jason Collins, the first pro male team athlete to come out publicly as gay. I read it too fast and carelessly missed that Jason Collins said he was engaged previously to a woman — and then wrote and commented that he was wrong to keep that from readers, when I was in fact the one who was wrong. My logic about what happened between Jason Collins and his former fiancee and what was or wasn’t disclosed, in hindsight, well, I was wrong to even raise that issue. It showed a lack of sensitivity. Also, I didn’t give him a chance to respond to my account before I wrote it. And, in addition, my first correction was not as complete and as full as it should have been. In a video where I discussed the issue, I wrongly jokingly referred to something shouldn’t have been joked about. For all of those reasons, I apologise to readers and viewers and, most importantly, to Jason Collins and to his ex-fiancee. I hope this very candid response will earn your trust back over time. It is something that I am committed to doing.

Then, Kurtz — who has been one of the nation’s leading media critics — was the one being grilled over his mistake, by Politico’s Dylan Byers and NPR’s David Folkenflik. Over the next 13 minutes, the two media critics turned the tables on Kurtz, who was apologetic and defensive.

Byers asked Kurtz about three less-publicized mistakes over the past two years and why he had slowly or incompletely addressed each of them — in 2010, when he claimed he interviewed Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) before later revealing he had interviewed an aide; in 2011, when he falsely attributed a quote to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); and earlier this year, in a controversy involving Fox News host Greta Van Susteren.

“In my career, I have written, spoken, blogged millions of words,” Kurtz said. The vast majority of those have been as accurate as humanly possible. In fact, I pride myself on double- and triple-checking the facts.”

“But there are times, being a human being, when I have slipped up. I ask people to look at the totality of my record but it’s certainly fair to point out where I have fallen short. And in those instances I have fallen short.”

Kurtz also said that the decision between him and the Daily Beast to part ways was part of an “amicable divorce” that was already underway.