08/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CNN, Others Using "Fig Leaf" to Justify Whack-Job Coverage

Cable news, it's been noted, is the beast that must be constantly fed.

Lately, it's been on a junk-food diet.

On Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources, a CNN media-examination show Sunday, one segment was devoted to the coverage of the loony-toon "Birther" alleged story about President Obama's supposedly bogus birth certificate. (The birther "movement" is probably a better noun, since the word "bowel" is interchangeable as the modifier).

Washington Poster Kurtz deserves praise for doing the segment, even though one couldn't help but notice the omission of an inconvenient truth: That his host network, CNN, was one of the chief offenders last week in spreading this psych-ward nonsense.

Maybe some left-wing extremist group should start spreading the rumor that Rush Limbaugh is the love child of Godzilla and the planet Jupiter. Fair and balanced.

Even better: Let's bring back Stephen Colbert's stories about Florida's "half-alligator" extremist GOP Congressman, Bill Posey, one of the nut jobs who've kept the Birther nonsense alive.

Politico's Roger Simon noted that CNN et al used what he calls a "fig leaf" by disclaiming,

"It's a huge story in the media, so we're going to cover it as a media story."

Simon: "That's just an excuse not to act responsibly."

The media acting responsibly? What's that all about?

"There's also a racial element to this story," media commentator Callie Crossley told Kurtz. "They're trying to de-legitimize his presidency."

Lauren Ashburn of USA Today noted that her paper isn't reporting this ridiculous non-story, and went even further, telling Kurtz:

"It's unethical for the media to be putting it front and center."

She also noted correctly that the Birther story is the latest dubious offering from "a cottage industry of conspiracy theorists. Why give voice to that? Why not cover health care and things that need addressing?"

A. Because it kills air time? Because it spikes ratings, even though it causes thoughtful and sober viewers to hold their noses? Because health care is "Bo-ring"? (You can sense that many viewers and their short attention spans are losing interest in getting universal health care passed. Ergo, the conveniently planned Congressional recess. )

"Does this amount to giving air time to flat-earth people?" Kurtz asked about the disgraceful Birther cable-news coverage last week.

Simon: "Yes, it does."

But CNN and MSNBC also went wall-to-wall with Michael Jackson coverage earlier this month when President Obama was in Moscow signing historic nuclear arms control agreements. The bar of journalistic integrity has been lowered to limbo levels.

And, of course, keeping whack job and Birther cheerleader Lou Dobbs on the CNN payroll further sullies the cable-news gene pool. It's also high-profile proof of the low state of cable news.

Maybe someone can promulgate a rumor that coverage of the Birthers by once legitimate news organizations is what really killed Walter Cronkite.

Now, there's a conspiracy theory I could buy into.