Controversy is brewing over facts in Fox News anchor’s new Trump book
Fox News anchor Howard Kurtz’s upcoming book, Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press and the War over the Truth, is making waves after a New York Times reporter fiercely denied some of its content.
The book, due out on Jan. 29 from the conservative Regnery Publishing, isn’t yet available in full, but some excerpts have been reviewed or obtained by media outlets like Politico, CNN, the Washington Post and the Hollywood Reporter. Reports have indicated that the book criticizes the media for its coverage of the Trump administration — a recent theme of Kurtz’ — and that it also catalogues some of the recent turmoil within the Trump administration.
“The past two years have radicalized me,” Kurtz writes in the upcoming book, which was first reviewed by Politico. “I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness out of a conviction that they must save the country from Donald Trump.”
The book has not yet garnered nearly the amount of press attention as Michael Wolff’s blockbuster Fire and Fury, another tome that chronicled recent alleged White House tumult. But like Wolff’s book, a number of details from Media Madness excerpts have already come under scrutiny.
In one excerpt, New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin is quoted by Kurtz as calling Trump “a racist and a fascist” — quotes that Martin has denied making.
As Kurtz tells it, Martin told an RNC staffer the following several weeks before the convention: “You’re a racist and a fascist; Donald Trump is a racist and a fascist, we all know it, and you are complicit. By supporting him you’re all culpable.”
According to Kurtz’s book, Martin again accused the RNC staffer and others working for Trump “of supporting a racist campaign and a racist candidate,” after which then-communications director of the RNC Sean Spicer called a Times editor to complain.
“Does that sound like me? More to that point, do those sound like real life lines any human being in the news business would use?”
After the excerpt was made public Tuesday, Martin forcefully denied the quotations attributed to him in Media Madness.
“Of course I didn’t yell ‘you’re a racist and a fascist’ or ‘you are complicit’ or ‘you’re all culpable’ at anybody,” he wrote in an email to Mic. “Does that sound like me? More to that point, do those sound like real life lines any human being in the news business would use?”
Martin declined to comment further to Mic, but in a comment to Politico, Martin said that Kurtz “paraphrased a vague, preposterous-sounding quote to me that I told him sounded ridiculous and not the kind of thing I’d say.”
“He couldn’t tell me who I purportedly said it to, but he said he’d see what more he could tell me and get back to me,” he told Politico. “I never heard another word from him after that. And I still have no idea what he or Sean Spicer are talking about.”
A spokesperson for the Times did not respond to requests for comment about whether an editor for the outlet was contacted by Spicer about Martin’s remarks.
Some reporters have come to Martin’s defense. “This anecdote sounds a lot more like something a certain former RNC official would make up than something [Martin] would say,” CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski tweeted Tuesday.
“This doesn’t sound like Jonathan Martin at all,” concurred Noah Rothman, the editor of the right-leaning Commentary magazine. “Not even a vague resemblance.”
A spokesperson for Regnery Publishing, an imprint of Salem Media Group, said in a statement that the publisher “absolutely stands by Howie and his decades of experience as a renowned reporter.”
Kurtz on Wednesday also defended his reporting, and said that the information about Martin’s quotations came from current and former RNC officials.
“Since Martin has decided to discuss our conversations last fall, I feel he has waived the right to keep them off the record, as I had done at his request,” Kurtz wrote in an article published Wednesday on Fox News’ website. “He repeatedly said he did not recall saying such things to the RNC staffer or the confrontational call with Spicer. He said several times that he could not imagine himself saying something like that. But he didn’t flatly deny it.”