Reliable Source?

Here’s a new one. One of the most influential voices on the media in the media Howard Kurtz, now of the Daily Beast, formerly of the Washington Post, still of CNN, late Tuesday offered “a whopper” of a correction for a column he wrote back in November.

Kurtz, who raised a few eyebrows this week for defending Sarah Palin after she was caught in the cross-hairs of her own making, published an interview he conducted with Rep. Darrell Issa. He’s the Republican Congressman planning a series of investigations aimed at undoing the progress this President has made since taking office two years ago next week.

Darrell Issa (R.-CA)

Today we learn that it wasn’t Rep. Issa at all with whom Mr. Kurtz spoke, but rather his spokesperson. Mediaite posted Mr. Kurtz’s explanation:

“That afternoon my phone rang, I heard the words ‘Darrell Issa’ and I thanked the congressman for calling. I asked why ‘you’ made various statements about the president and congressional oversight, and he responded. I called him ‘Congressman’ several times during our discussion. I later emailed Bardella, on Nov. 24, and said: ‘Hey, thanks for getting me the congressman so quickly. He mentioned the minority having sent 46 letters to the chairman or subcommittee chairmen and getting only six responses. Would you have some or all of the ones that drew no response? Thanks.’

Bardella sent the followup information I requested.

On Nov. 29, after my story ran on The Daily Beast, I got a note from Bardella saying there had been ‘a little confusion’ and “it wasn’t the congressman you spoke with, it was me speaking in his capacity as his spokesman.'”

Mediaite correctly wonders why it took so long for Mr. Kurtz to reveal the error in his ways.

“…I got busy with other things and I let it slip, and that was a mistake on my part.”

I suppose that’s possible. On the other hand, if Rep. Issa’s paid spokesperson accurately and articulately captured his boss’s position, it probably mattered little whether it came directly from Issa’s mouth. The spokesperson clearly was authorized to deliver the Congressman’s POV, which Mr. Kurtz dutifully captured and reported — though incorrectly and inexplicably attributed to Rep. Issa for which Mr. Kurtz today is taking it on the chin.

Many of my clients wrongly believe they have to serve up their CEO with every interview request, when in fact any in-the-know senior executive of authority with strong communications skills will more often than not appease the reporter. We see this daily at the White House press briefings.

Also, it’s simply not scalable to have one’s CEO handle all interviewing duties, though in a crisis, you probably don’t want your PR rep as the public face of the company.