October 21, 2013

As Fox News’s “independent” media critic, Howard Kurtz had no choice but to at least mention the Salon fact-check of Sean Hannity that surfaced on Friday to great interest. The Oct. 11 edition of “Hannity” featured three couples telling their stories of Obamacare woe; for his Salon piece, Eric Stern re-interviewed those couples and published his findings that their stories didn’t square with the impression they’d made on “Hannity.” “[N]one of them had even visited the [Obamacare] insurance exchange,” wrote Stern, who has worked as a “senior adviser to a governor” on health-care issues.

So there’s an allegation that “Hannity” pushed a false or at least unsubstantiated accounts of Obamacare’s hardships on Fox News viewers. Here’s how Kurtz addressed — or, disposed of — the issue:

Now, on the other side, Mary Katharine [Ham], Sean Hannity has drawn some criticism. “Salon” did a piece that said that he had three couples on, talking about how they were hurt by Obamacare. And the “Salon” reporter called up these couples.

One was a businessman who had laid off people, but his business was so small it wasn’t covered by Obamacare.

The other two said their premiums were going up but they hadn’t checked to see what they might or might not, I should say, save under Obamacare.

Now Sean Hannity is an opinion guy, no question about it. So he’s not in the same category. But could it be said that various news outlets were pushing their own agenda during this 16-day debacle?

HAM: Well, I think that’s what happens. And, frankly, I think the right feels that because most of the mainstream media is leaning left, and I think pretty obviously so during this, that it is their duty to push this other side and to point out that when the president shuts down parks and puts priority on certain things that maybe he doesn’t need to put priority on, shutting down to hurt people, that that is an important story that the media is missing.

Bold text added to highlight a question: Is Kurtz suggesting that an opinion guy may play with the facts however he pleases? His bosses — not to mention Hannity himself — will doubtless appreciate how he handled this one.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.