Howard Kurtz is a bit tardy to the party when it comes to offering his own brand of tsk-tsking David Letterman and the abrogation of our late night comedy sexx-laws, but at least he gives us a weird hypothetical to chew on:
If Letterman were the chief executive of a defense contractor, instead of a TV production company, would the media critics be so quick to let him skate on sleeping with the help?
I'm a bit taken aback by this. Defense contractors are subject to a dizzying array of regulations and must earn clearance from the Department of Defense in order to gain access to classified information and participate in lucrative contracts. Point blank: the prospect of a defense contractor being blackmailed is of much greater significance than a late-night teevee comedian. The two should not, in any way, be compared.
That said, would media critics let the defense contractors skate? Well, judging by Kurtz's own words, I have to believe that the answer is yes:
Egg Harbor Township, N.J.: Howie, Where do you rank this so-called ACORN scandal in importance when compared to the alleged politicizing of the Justice Department, non-existent WMDs, charges against the U.S. government of outsourcing torture and Blackwater?
Howard Kurtz: It's not as important as any of those, obviously. But that doesn't mean it's not a story. When the House and Senate both vote to cut off funding for the nation's largest community organizing group because of scandalous videotapes, that strikes me as a news story.
Mind you, the good people at Blackwater are best known for their drunken slayings and their killing sprees, crimes that far surpass in seriousness those of ACORN. And speaking as one who has, in fact written about contractor abuses, I can tell you that there are under-reported stories out there that will make your flesh crawl. I mean, why not compare the pretend prostitution rings of ACORN, to the actual prostitution rings of DynCorp, which no one is scolding, in media criticism columns?
But, you see, while ACORN is "not as important as any of those," it's much, much shinier! And in the media criticism game, it's the shine that makes it a story. And, hey, David Letterman currently gleams so brightly, that one can easily imagine him to be the equivalent of a shamed and chagrined defense contractor, who has potentially exposed classified information to blackmailers!
I think we are all better off with Howard Kurtz sticking to wagging his finger at comedians, frankly.