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Pressed by Kurtz, Huffington Rationalizes Appearing w/ Olbermann While Demanding Civility

On Sunday's Reliable Sources, CNN host Howard Kurtz pressed guest Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post on her hypocrisy for calling for more civility in political discourse even while she is a regular guest on Keith Olbermann's Countdown show on MSNBC. After Kurtz asked if MSNBC was as much of a problem as FNC, she charged that "misinformation" disseminated by FNC is "monumental" compared to MSNBC:

Definitely not as much of the problem. Have they exaggerated? Yes, they would admit it themselves. But the constant barrage of misinformation being put out by Glenn Beck, by O'Reilly, by Hannity is just monumental. I mean, this is a factual record that has been compiled of what they're saying.

She also rationalized her appearances with Olbermann by giving him credit for a lame apology the MSNBC host once addressed to Jon Stewart after Stewart called him out for viciously attacking Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Huffington: "Well, Keith Olbermann actually apologized for that statement, for that particular statement. Have you ever seen anybody apologize except maybe Glenn Beck when he called the President a racist?"

Kurtz also challenged Huffington on her suggestion that Jon Stewart does not generally present his Daily Show from a liberal point of view as she tried to argue that being tough on President Obama was proof that Stewart does not have such a bias from the left with Kurtz describing him as a "disappointed liberal":

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well, actually, if you watch his interview with the President, that was a tough interview. He exposed the Achilles Heels of the President. That's not a cheerleader interviewing the President.

HOWARD KURTZ: Well, no, but it was, he came off as a disappointed liberal.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Sunday, October 31, Reliable Sources on CNN:

HOWARD KURTZ: And joining us now is a woman who played a key role in that rally, the founder of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington. Welcome. We'll get to your role in just a moment, but there was a lot of chatter about this rally, was it risky for Jon Stewart, and wouldn't he be taking himself too seriously? Did that happen?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Not at all. I think the rally was a high-wire act, as anything that involves satire is, over three hours. But I think they really pulled it off magnificently. Both the comedy, both the serious part, especially at the end. And the message at the end is incredibly important. What he said, that when we in the media tend to cover and cover all together, you know, whether it's balloon boy or Reverend Jones burning the Koran, at the expense of other things that are happening around the country, where we put our magnifying glass, as he put it, is incredibly important. The use of the term, "the media as the community system of democracy, " dates back to Jefferson, that's how the Founding Fathers saw it too and that's-

KURTZ: There was no cable TV then. I want to come back to that, but first I want to ask you about your role. Of course the Huffington Post gave a huge headline to this rally. Why did you put roughly a quarter of a million dollars of your company's money into providing buses for 10,000 people to come down here from New York?

HUFFINGTON: That actually was just a decision made in a moment of irrational exuberance when I was on the Jon Stewart show talking about the rally, and he was talking about-

KURTZ: So you were sucking up to him by offering help to get his fans here?

HUFFINGTON: He was talking about the logistical difficulties of getting people there, and I said, you know what, we'll provide buses. Anybody who comes to our offices, we'll get them there, thinking there would be a few dozen people. We put up a signup sheet, and 10,000 people ended up being on over 200 buses. It was just amazing how we, the fact that they were there, even though they had flown from other parts of the country. One of them had flown from Washington to get on a bus in New York to get to the rally, said something-

KURTZ: Because he wanted to hang out with you?

HUFFINGTON: Not at all. Because they wanted to have that sense of community and connection. And that was really what you observed all around the rally when you walked around. It wasn't just what was happening on stage but among people there.

KURTZ: I mean, let's be candid. Jon Stewart appeals to youth because he comes at his comedy and satire and criticism from a liberal point of view.

HUFFINGTON: Well, actually, if you watch his interview with the President, that was a tough interview.

KURTZ: We're going to play that later, but most-

HUFFINGTON: He exposed the Achilles Heels of the President. That's not a cheerleader interviewing the President.

KURTZ: Well, no, but it was, he came off as a disappointed liberal. But let's leave that interview aside. When I see clips of the Daily Show on the Huffington Post it's often skewering Republican targets. You like that.

HUFFINGTON: Well, that's not at all actually what makes Jon Stewart special. What makes him and Colbert special is the fact that they use satire to speak truth to power. Whether that power is liberal, conservative, in the media, in politics, that's where the power comes from, and people who continue to see this as a sort of left-leaning show are completely missing its appeal.

KURTZ: All right, I think I disagree on that, but before that final serious oration by Jon Stewart, in order to make a point about the media, he and Colbert played some clips of, well, let me show it. Played some clips of some well-known personalities popping off on cable news.

[SHOWS CLIPS OF VARIOUS CONSERVATIVE AND LIBERALS TV HOSTS BEING STRONGLY CRITICAL OF THE OPPOSING IDEOLOGY]

KURTZ: So Stewart makes this impassioned plea against what we just saw. Now, aren't you part of that world? Don't you go on these liberal shows and bash Republicans?

HUFFINGTON: Oh, you can go on shows and disagree with Republicans or disagree with Democrats. And I do both. The question is what are you saying? Is what you are saying based on facts? However passionately you may express it, is it based on facts? That is really the key distinction that we need to make. And also, in the process, are you disagreeing with your opponents? Or are you demonizing them?

KURTZ: So you think it's about the tone?

HUFFINGTON: For me it's about, first of all, it's about facts. Is it factual? That's key.

KURTZ: But conservatives who disagree with you certainly think they're being factual.

HUFFINGTON: No, they can't possibly think they're being factual when they say that Barack Obama wasn't born here, or when they are saying that Barack Obama is taking us down the, down a communist path. These clearly are not factual statements, and that is really the first distinction we need to make.

KURTZ: All right, but let me ask you this, because in that montage, and there was a lot more we didn't show, Jon Stewart played Keith Olbermann almost as much as he played Glenn Beck. You go on Olbermann's show pretty regularly. Do you think he's part of the problem?

HUFFINGTON: Well, Keith Olbermann actually apologized for that statement-

KURTZ: For that particular one, yes.

HUFFINGTON: -for that particular statement. Have you ever seen anybody apologize except maybe Glenn Beck when he called the President a racist?

KURTZ: That took him a while.

HUFFINGTON: But it took him a while to apologize, but the question is-

KURTZ: But do you agree with Jon Stewart that Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz of MSNBC are part of the problem as much as O'Reilly and Beck and Hannity on Fox?

HUFFINGTON: Definitely not as much of the problem. Have they exaggerated? Yes, they would admit it themselves. But the constant barrage of misinformation being put out by Glenn Beck, by O'Reilly, by Hannity is just monumental. I mean, this is a factual record that has been compiled of what they're saying.

KURTZ: Well, Olbermann tweeted yesterday that Jon Stewart had jumped the shark He said that, you know, basically, MSNBC was needed because otherwise you have Fox onesidedness, which he says led to the Iraq War, but Stewart seems to be blaming both sides. You, sitting here with me, seem to be saying Fox is the problem.

HUFFINGTON: No, I'm not saying at all that Fox is the problem. I'm saying that mainstream media, cable media, everybody is part of the problem that Stewart identified at the end, which is magnifying the relevant or the demonic, magnifying, you know, the evil that's going on. As he said, stop calling people terrorists or communists. They have to earn that title.

KURTZ: It's conflict driven?

HUFFINGTON: You know, you can't just give it.

KURTZ: It's conflict driven?

HUFFINGTON: And it's conflict driven.

- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.