Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Olbermann Resusitated - Surprise, Surprise

No crow on my menu today (read here). If anything, I'm more convinced than ever that the public - or at least Keith Olbermann's fan club - has been had.

BJ of DemWit, who has also written about this escapade, emailed me this morning with an opinion and a link to The Progress Report on Think Progress. I will leave it up to BJ to publish her opinion but here are some highlights from our progressively thinking friends.

Only a fool would deny the following:
. . . While Olbermann should and will return to host Countdown, the incident illustrates a vital difference of integrity. While MSNBC suspended Olbermann for a private campaign donation, Fox News is encouraging its commentators to launch, create, endorse, promote, and raise funds for Republican candidates while the parent company is donating millions directly to the GOP. . .

. . . Olbermann is a long-standing progressive champion who always shares his opinions openly, but also takes seriously his role as a responsible conveyor of facts. The difference between Olbermann and a myriad of Fox pundits -- and the difference between MSNBC and Fox News itself -- is the difference between a news operation and a partisan political machine.
. . . unlike Olbermann, Scarborough cleared his contribution in 2006 (and presumably did so this year). Buchanan is a contributor rather than a host, and CNBC is exempt from NBC's policy. Ultimately, while the description of Olbermann as an "impartial journalist" isn't exactly correct, he -- like Scarborough -- is bound by NBC policy, and thus should have disclosed his donation and -- despite his reported reluctance -- admitted to his error.
And then it's back to the same old comparison to FOX News and its total lack of pretext to having any kind of standards:
While NBC, MSNBC, Newsweek, the New York Times, Reuters, ABC, CBS, NPR, Dow Jones, and U.S. News & World Report all either forbid or restrict political contributions to prevent appearance of partiality, Fox News has shrugged off the thinly-veiled "fair and balanced" slogan to become a powerful propaganda network delivering a comprehensive platform for the GOP.
Again, this is absolutely verifiably true, but  KO's transgression stinks like an overflowing cesspool on a hot humid day in the middle of summer. He's simply too smart not to be aware that what he was doing was a breach of contract. To claim otherwise is foolhardy at best. The only explanation left, in my opinion, is that this was indeed a PR stunt and, if so, it stinks even worse than a false claim of ignorance.

Here's more from TPM:
According to the Times, he also criticized NBC for its "inconsistently applied" policy that he didn't even know existed.


  1. Well said. It was stupid and unforgiveable, if he claims to be a journalist. If not, wear clown suit, as I suggested on Citizen K.

  2. You're leaving out another alternative altogether. Perhaps it's, to an extent, PR, but not on behalf of NBC.

    Olbermann, after all, is a man of strong opinions. This NBC policy has not actual purpose, except to provide a thin veneer of "balance" on the reporters and pundits. It's too easy to get around, if NBC were actually concerned about their reporter's contributions. (Olbermann could have donated to any PAC without a specific name attached, and he knows enough people to say "just make sure this gets to Candidates X, Y and Z." In code, of course.)

    This rule has no effect on anything, except the newscritter's right to support who he/she wants. And perhaps Olbermann didn't want to be unfairly stifled, when Hannity is over there openly fellating whichever rightwing candidate walks into his studio.

    This might just be the most obvious chunk of protest out there. Openly break the rule, and then publicly make a stink about it, so that the brass gets embarrassed and changes the rule.

    Perhaps this wasn't NBC's idea, but Olbermann's.

  3. Paula. Thanks. Was beginning to feel a little lonely. ; )

    Nameless: I don't think I ever implied that NBC was part of this. It's totally KO's show.

  4. Nameless: Had to cut it short there. You say, "This might just be the most obvious chunk of protest out there. Openly break the rule, and then publicly make a stink about it, so that the brass gets embarrassed and changes the rule."

    You could be right but it's still a PR stunt. And it's still disingenuous of KO to claim he didn't know about it. And aren't there unions that negotiate these things?

    KO does indeed have strong opinions and I applaud him for that and for his usually strong defense of the truth. But he is also a man with a strong ego who enjoys theatre.

  5. I thought KO was making a more subtle point myself.

    He knew he'd be penalized somehow for it, but he wasn't worried that it meant the end of his job, and what he really wanted was to start the conversation about Fox and CNBC's outright funding of the righties and get it going bigtime before another big-money-being-spent-to-elect-fools election occurred.

    Mission accomplished!

    Everybody's talking now.

    (Or maybe I'm reading it too subtly.)


  6. It will be interesting to see what, if any, Olbermann has to say on the topic himself.

  7. Suzan---You're too generous! You mean, Robin Hood stole money from a rich man just to start a public conversation about the importance of rich people helping the poor? Nahhhh...I don't think so.

  8. You just wait for Olbermann’s performance – or “Special Comment” – tonight. (Not to mention ratings.) It’s going to be “we are more ethical than Fox News, because I was punished for what I did.” PR stunt. Case closed. BJ

  9. I'm sitting here wondering what the likes of E. R. Murrow, Roger Mudd, Walter Conkrite, Daniel Shore, Chet Huntley, and many, many more, are thinking as they watch this three-ring circus from above.

    For KO to blame NBC is beyond the pale.

  10. Remember the story about Tammy Wynette being abducted from a parking lot by aliens?

    This story fits in that category.

  11. tnlib, with all due respect, I don't agree with you. I have no idea if Olbermann knew about the rule and decided to take a chance, once knew it but forgot about it, knew about it but assumed it wouldn't apply to him, or never knew about it.

    I fail to see how having this come up gives Olbermann or the network a PR boost, especially since the suspension lasted just two work days. If it's supposed to be because MSNBC can make a big deal about suspending its rule breaker, a suspension of at least a week or two would be necessary, not a long weekend.

    Again, MSNBC needs separate, logical and distinct rules for its hosts, as opposed to straight-news journalists.

    No way is Olbermann's job the same as what Cronkite, Murrow and the others you mentioned did. A better comparison would be to Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith late in their careers, when both did on-air commentaries and little or no reporting. Even with them the analogy breaks down because they worked for strictly straight-news organizations. Nothing like MSNBC, which is built on the clearly expressed opinions of advocates, existed.

  12. I also wonder if MSNBC didn't set this up with Olbermann to give them an excuse to eventually throw out their own rule. Theirs is only a pretense of "news" in prime time. I think they'd really like to cash in more blatantly on the same shtick FOX makes the big bucks for. Maybe they could front their own candidates, too; there seems to be big money in it.

  13. TAU: LOL - I think you're right. LOL.

    SW: Anybody who makes 75 million bucks a year who doesn't have at least three good attorneys can't be too bright. I'm sure he has several that read every contract with a fine tooth comb before he signs any of them. Repeat: "NBC, MSNBC, Newsweek, the New York Times, Reuters, ABC, CBS, NPR, Dow Jones, and U.S. News & World Report all either forbid or restrict political contributions..." This is standard. It's not like NBC is acting all alone out there.

    Of course it's giving KO a PR boost, maybe not a positive one, but a boost nonetheless.

    The formats may have been different for those pioneers in broadcasting, but one of the reasons Murrow didn't last forever at CBS is because he was so controversial and he was giving Paley an upset stomach - seriously. His "Hear It Now" became "See It Now" and that's the vehicle he used to help bring down McCarthy.

    If the media is going to have standards at all, it really doesn't matter whether an employee is a lowly court reporter, a DC correspondent, a "journalist," anchor, announcer, host, or commentator. Speaking for me and me only, I'm much more comfortable when ethics and standards are observed across the board. This is what separates the media groups mentioned above from dishonest bullshit such as we see at Fox.

    Nance: I sincerely hope not.

  14. That Smedley Butler piece should be read and discussed at some point in k-12 education. It highlights an aspect of misuse of the military that's all but ignored in public education, and shouldn't be.

    Of course, that will never be allowed because the radical right would go ballistic. Limbaugh and Hannity would love to have it to demagogue about. The Texas School Board would reject textbooks that include it. I'm sure wealthy wing nuts would even refuse to donate to colleges that made a point of teaching it.

    IMO, the two world wars should be studied and discussed at length in high school. Their history makes painfully clear the gruesome futility of wars of aggression. So many lives lost or shattered. So much destruction. So much loss and grief. And for what? If you look at Europe today, you have to be impressed by how its nations are all still there and have about the same relative wealth, power and territory as they did in the late 19th century. Those wars ruined many and made fortunes for some. Mostly, they just soaked the ground with blood and filled it with bodies of those dead long before their time.

    The goal of teaching the world wars in depth wouldn't be to make doctrinary pacifists out our young. That would be a mistake because this world still presents evil threats that must be deterred and defended against. The goal would be to promote a background of knowledge that could serve the exercise of independent judgment when another Johnson wants to escalate a Vietnam misadventure. When another Nixon breaks his word and perpetuates his predecessor's mistake. When another Nixon or Reagan wants to conduct secret, illegal military campaigns. When another Bush talks up the need for pre-emptive war, especially on bogus charges.