A rule of thumb: If you’re a cable news personality and you get skewered on Comedy Central, milk it!
Comedy Central lightning struck Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz last week, as Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” ripped the ubiquitous Kurtz for having raised a dumb point on the airwaves of Fox News. Amid all the protests in Ferguson, Mo., over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Kurtz riffed about whether a media pullout from the scene would have had “an impact on the violence.”
On his show last week, Colbert couldn’t resist this opening: “It’s true — the presence of a camera clearly makes people behave recklessly. ‘Cause I don’t believe for a minute that Howie Kurtz would have floated the idea that journalists are to blame for the Ferguson violence if a camera wasn’t pointed at him. For his own safety, get this man off of television.”
On his Sunday show “Media Buzz,” Kurtz swung back at Colbert: “I hope you will be safe when you have to get in front of a camera at the ‘Late Show’ and survive as yourself after dropping your protective cloak as a pompous blowhard.” To decode that ribbing, Colbert will be leaving his Comedy Central show, and his persona as a conservative firebrand, to take over CBS’s “Late Show” next year.
But one segment of pushback against Comedy Central hardly suffices for an ambitious cabler. Last night, Kurtz reprised the back-and-forth in a discussion with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, who was substitute-anchoring “The O’Reilly Factor.” The media maven reported that some “humor-impaired” people had concluded that there was a “blood feud” going on. Not so, said Kurtz: He thought he was taking the “high road” by referencing the eventual disappearance of Colbert’s on-air persona on the Comedy Central set.
Yet he still managed to accuse Colbert of bad conduct: “I was trying to make a … serious point about Ferguson. He took it out of context. That’s what they do, that’s fine,” said Kurtz, who appeared to be making a plea: Please, Colbert, take me out of context anytime.
Far from a blood feud, indeed, the Colbert-Kurtz thing is a form of media cooperation. Comedy Central picks on Fox News for two reasons: 1) It broadcasts a lot of stupid stuff; 2) It has a large audience. Fox News, in turn, gains altitude in rehashing the quips. Everyone comes out happy.