Fox News’ response to the uproar over its religious correspondent’s interview with author Reza Aslan is a revealing example of how the network handles criticism by either attacking or ignoring it, and raises questions about how Howard Kurtz, Fox’s new media critic, will fit into that pattern.
Aslan, the author of the new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, was the subject of a recent 10-minute interview on FoxNews.com. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat describes the interview and ensuing controversy in today’s column:
Those minutes were spent with the interviewer, Lauren Green, asking Aslan to explain why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus — with Aslan coolly emphasizing his credentials and the non-Islamic nature of his argument — and then with Green asking variations on the Muslim question, to increasing offense and diminishing returns.
The video quickly went viral, turning Aslan into a culture-war icon, a martyr to Fox’s biases … and soon enough (as these things tend to go) a martyr with a No. 1 best seller.
As Douthat indicates, Fox was widely criticized for the interview, which was one of the major media stories of the week. It seemed like a perfect issue for Kurtz, the network’s in-house media critic, to address.