So it turns out Howard Kurtz wasn't exactly fired by The Daily Beast just for his egregious Jason Collins story — but Kurtz's defense that his exit "was in the works for some time" still wasn't pretty: Tina Brown had been "putting together a file" of excuses to fire him, and the big gay cover-up heard 'round the media world let her dump Kurtz and his quarter-million-dollar contract, quickly and affordably.
That's according to Forbes' Jeff Bercovici, who reports that Brown "was already on the verge of letting Kurtz know that his services would no longer be required heading into last week." Indeed, the Newsweek/Daily Beast editrix "had been looking for a way to get rid of him for months." And even though she had compiled Kurtz's biggest screwups of the last few years — his falsely attributing quotes to Darrell Issa and Nancy Pelosi, and more — finding just cause, and a soft PR landing, had proved difficult. Until, of course, Kurtz put himself rather publicly out of his own misery. Kurtz was let go by the Beast at the end of last week after he erroneously reported that Collins hadn't disclosed his previous engagement to a woman in a Sports Illustrated cover story in which he had done exactly that — along with coming out as the first active gay player in a major American team sport. Kurtz faced a huge amount of criticism for being wrong, again.
As Bercovici reports, Kurtz was getting paid $250,000 a year to be the Daily Beast/Newsweek's D.C. bureau chief and chief media critic — a huge sum for a magazine that ceased to exist late last year after losing $40 million a year, and a news site full of high-profile writers that still loses about $10 million annually. And that's on top of whatever he makes hosting CNN's Reliable Sources and doing whatever it is he does for the Daily Download. (For what it's worth, CNN has stuck by Kurtz through this whole ordeal.) So if Brown didn't have enough of a detailed case to get rid of Kurtz — if she didn't have the self-inflicted Collins move — getting rid of the media star turned internal headache would have been almost as expensive as keeping him. But when Kurtz wrote, published, lazily corrected, and half-heartedly apologized for the Collins story before retracting it completely, Brown had her excuse to fire him served on a silver platter. You don't have the upper hand in severance negotiations when you're the guy with the long history of screwing up. And this accounting for the backstory behind the exit discussions makes clear that Kurtz was trying to soften an already hard fall when he tweeted, after he was let go, that "as we began to move in different directions, both sides agreed it was best to part company." Apparently, Tina Brown and The Daily Beast decided first.