Advancing his pledge that he’d serve as an independent media critic at Fox News, host Howard Kurtz on his show “MediaBuzz” took up the controversy over the comments of a so-called “terrorism analyst” during the Jan. 10 edition of “Justice with Judge Jeanine.” As noted here, Steve Emerson, founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, told host Jeanine Pirro that the city of Birmingham, England, was “totally Muslim” and that Muslim “no-go zones,” complete with Sharia courts, are spread about Europe.
In his treatment of Emerson’s mistaken analysis, Kurtz noted that British Prime Minister David Cameron had called the terrorism analyst an “idiot.” Kurtz also pointed out that Fox News had corrected not only Emerson’s segment with Pirro but also other affirmations about no-go zones in its routine news coverage.
Yet Kurtz threw in a shot at some of the media backlash against Fox News over no-go zones: “Speaking of mistakes, by the way, several news outlets wrongly identified Emerson, with the Huffington Post variously calling him a ‘Fox News contributor,’ a ‘Fox News expert’ and a ‘Fox News idiot,’ rather than just a ‘guest.'”
Questions of affiliation truly do matter in cable news. A “contributor,” in the industry’s vernacular, is someone who’s paid to turn in regular appearance — someone, in other words, who’s vetted by the network and represents it. A “guest” is just that — a voice that the network brings in to address some topic or other.
Chiding the Huffington Post and other outlets for mangling the terminology, however, cloaks the culpability of Fox News in this whole no-go-zone fiasco. After all, it’s not as if Emerson’s remarks were an isolated instance of no-go-zone advocacy on Fox News airwaves; the chatter to this effect began before his famous statements and continued days after them, a run that we documented in this post. This was a Fox News problem, not a Steve Emerson problem. And to its credit, Fox News aired an excellent correction acknowledging as much.