The Worst People In The World

All the worst people in the world are now breathing a sigh of relief, knowing they won’t be exposed on Countdown tonight.

Update: Keith Olbermann was on Twitter between 8:00 and 9:00. He probably had more people reading his tweets than MSNBC had viewing their network.

Keith Olbermann Out At MSNBC

Two months after having been suspended by MSNBC, Keith Olbermann has announced that tonight was his last show. Video hereCNN reports:

Keith Olbermann is leaving MSNBC, the “Countdown” host announced on his show Friday night.

The liberal commentator told viewers he had been informed “this was going to be the last edition” of his show, but offered no further details.

NBC/Universal confirmed the news in a statement Friday night.

“MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast
of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” will be this evening. MSNBC thanks
Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in
his future endeavors.”

Olbermann made the announcement in his typical deadpan style, evoking scenes from the film “Network” and thanking viewers for keeping him on the air for eight years.

“In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative,” Olbermann said before launching into a story about his exit from ESPN 13 years ago.

“As God as my witness, in the commercial break just before the emotional moment, the producer got into my earpiece and he said, ‘um, can you cut it down to 15 seconds so we get in this tennis result from Stuttgart,'” he said, half-smiling, pausing for composure.

“So I’m grateful I have a little more time to sign off here. Regardless this is the last edition of ‘Countdown.'”

There were no comments on future plans but  Media Decoder reports that “one term of his settlement will keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time.” They also report that Lawrence O’Donnell’s show will replace Countdown at 8 p.m. and Ed Schultz will move to 10 p.m.


My response on Facebook & Twitter:

Anyone want to start a rumor that Keith Olbermann left MSNBC to become White House Press Secretary, and watch some conservative heads explode?

The idea (regarding the rumor) and the underlying idea (Olbermann as press secretary) received a lot of favorable comments. There’s even media support from the idea. Among my Facebook friends giving this a “Like” on Facebook was Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune.

Update II:

Also got Rick Roll’d over this on Twitter.

Palin, Like Most Conservatives, Fails To Understand The Controversy

Sarah (Reload) Palin has finally responded to the criticism of her use of crosshairs in an ad featuring Gabrielle Giffords but, like other conservatives weighing in, shows she totally fails to understand what the controversy is about. This is not about whether this particular graphic precipitated the crime or whether Sarah Palin is personally responsible. This is not the criticism being made, and not what the liberal blogs have been talking about.

The concern on the left goes far beyond the crosshairs. It includes Palin’s link to the controversial graphic with calls for supporters to “reload,” and for the general atmosphere of hatred seen in her public appearances.  Conservatives are taking a very simplistic approach to this entire matter.  Their argument seems to be that if the crosshairs did not precipitate this particular shooting then  conservatives deserve no criticism for the hateful tone and violent allusions in their speech.

Liberals have a view which seems to be far too complicated for the simplistic reptilian minds of  these conservatives: The hate speech is wrong, regardless of whether it influenced this particular shooter. Right wing inspired violence extends beyond this particular episode. The atmosphere is still poisonous. It is also simplistic to act as if it is all or nothing as to whether current right wing hate speech had an influence in this case. The murderer did not live in a vacuum. There were probably many influences on him, and it is naive it say that recent trend of conservative hate speech going mainstream didn’t have an influence.

Palin had an opportunity to speak to those beyond her extremist supporters but failed to do so. She would have been much smarter to admit the crosshairs went to far, and that she should have taken this down when Giffords had first complained. She would have minimized the damage to admit she was wrong and had learned from this episode. Instead Palin denies all responsibility for her actions. In contrast, Keith Olbermann, who has neither the high profile of Palin or allusions to violence in the manner of Palin, has recognized the problem and repudiated “any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence.”

Conservatives identify with their extremes while liberals typically oppose extremes of the far left as much as the far right. Conservatives see criticism of speech promoting hatred as an attack purely on them. To me it doesn’t matter whether Jared Loughner expressed views of the far right or left. Deranged individuals such as Loughner commonly express views from both extremes, although conservatives have been quick to deny the degree to which Loughner echos many ideas of the far right. The problem is the manner in which the far right both identifies government as the enemy and makes violence s0und acceptable with their inappropriate display of guns along with calls for revolution and “Second Amendment remedies.”  This is wrong even if it had zero influence upon Loughner (which is unlikely).

Palin further showed her inability to be presidential by releasing her response on Facebook as she continues to be afraid to respond to questions from the news media or speak to those beyond her extremist supporters. She has created further controversy by the inappropriate claim of “blood libel,” including condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League. Issuing a statement seen as anti-Semitic is hardly a pathway for Palin to use this tragedy to move from the fringes to someone who could ever be seen as acceptable by the mainstream.

An Announcement

There will be no more blog entries today. I have suspended myself indefinitely for having made contributions to Democratic candidates in accordance with MSNBC’s ethics rules.

Update: It has been ruled that contributions to Democratic candidates in Western Michigan were actually an exercise in futility and not serious contributions aimed at winning political office. The Democratic candidate for Congress lost by more than a 2:1 margin. (This is sort of like not getting a pass interference call when a ball is not catchable). Therefore my suspension will be lifted.

Juan Williams Should Have Been Removed As NPR News Analyst–But Not For These Remarks

Juan Williams was fired as a news analyst by NPR for comments taken as anti-Muslim while appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show:

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Mr. Williams also made reference to the Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty this month to trying to plant a car bomb in Times Square. “He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts,” Mr. Williams said.

There has already been considerable debate on line over these comments. Taken by themselves there is a lot of room for discussion and disagreement, but if we are solely looking at these comments alone I personally do not believe they were sufficient to fire Mr. Williams.

Things get more complicated when looking at the specific duties of Williams’ position and the long history of problems. Williams really should have been removed as a news analyst long ago. If he had an show where it was more appropriate for a host to express their own opinions it would be a different matter, but a news analyst should be held to a higher standard. I believe Williams should have been removed as a news analyst long ago, just as I agreed with NBC in removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors of debate and election coverage. Williams should not appear on Fox for the same reasons other NPR correspondents have been instructed that they should not attend Jon Stewart’s upcoming rally.

At best Williams is a second rate journalist and his removal will be to NPR’s benefit. Williams cannot reliably serve as an objective news analyst if he also works for Fox. Fox has repeatedly been exposed as an operation formed to promote extremist right wing views and support the Republican Party and is not a legitimate news outfit. Williams’ work at Fox has long been an issue at NPR. It was naive to think that Williams could fill his roles at both networks. Williams was moved from correspondent to analyst due to the credibility problems raised by his work at Fox but such bias is not appropriate for either position. NPR should have given Williams the choice long ago of either discontinuing his work at Fox or leaving his role as a new analyst at NPR.

It was a mistake to fire Williams over specific comments as opposed to the overall problems created by Williams working for both a legitimate news organization and a right wing propaganda outfit. I might feel  sorry for Williams if his career and livelihood had been ruined over these comments alone but his income will actually increase tremendously from both an expanded role at Fox and potentially elsewhere in the right wing noise machine.

Unfortunately most of the discussion has centered on Williams’ latest comments as opposed to his overall suitability to remain at NPR. The reasons are better clarified in this memo to the stations:

Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:05 PM Subject: Juan WilliamsDear AREPS,

Thank you for all of your varying feedback on the Juan Williams situation. Let me offer some further clarification about why we terminated his contract early.

First, a critical distinction has been lost in this debate. NPR News analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on your air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview – not our reporters and analysts.

Second, this isn’t the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan’s public comments. Despite many conversations and warnings over the years, Juan has continued to violate this principal.

Third, these specific comments (and others made in the past), are inconsistent with NPR’s ethics code, which applies to all journalists (including contracted analysts):

“In appearing on TV or other media . . . NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows . . . that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”

More fundamentally, “In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

Unfortunately, Juan’s comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.

We’re profoundly sorry that this happened during fundraising week. Juan’s comments were made Monday night and we did not feel it would be responsible to delay this action.

This was a tough decision and we appreciate your support.



Vivian Schiller
President & CEO, NPR

Name Change Possible at MSNBC

Media Decoder reports that NBC is thinking of separating the MSNBC web site from NBC News. In the long run this might be a good idea. The liberal bias of the evening shows on MSNBC have been a source of irritation to the news division at NBC, fearing that it taints their objectivity. MSNBC would also like to be able to use the web site to promote their own shows as opposed to being a straight news site.

It think it makes sense to have an web site to promote MSNBC personalities such as Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann and a separate to take over the news. The one downside to this from a business perspective is that the network might not want to give away the already established web site to their smaller division. Perhaps a better solution would be to continue MSNBC as the network news web site and come up with an entirely new name for the MSNBC cable network. This would allow them to establish a new web site to accompany the cable channel.

Fox does have it much easier, not caring if they have an objective news site at all as they don’t have a legitimate news division. Fox’s ability to distort the news comes from the manner in which their fake news shows reinforce the same ideas promoted by their openly labeled opinion shows. If Rachel Maddow devotes time to a story, such as C Street, only a portion of the MSNBC audience which is watching her show will see it. However Fox will coordinate their shows so that many of the “news” as well as opinion shows are talking about the same topics day after day. That way even trivial stories such as Obama’s birthplace or the new Black Panther Party are discussed endlessly until they move from Fox to the legitimate news media. Fox, unlike NBC, certainly has no need for separate web sites to differentiate their opinion shows from their news division.

Keith Olbermann Nominated For Emmy Award

Keith Olbermann was nominated for an Emmy Award for the above tribute to his mother following her death. A transcript was also posted by Diogenes2008 at Daily Kos:

And finally, how does one tell this story?  My mother passed away Saturday night.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Marie Katherine Charbonier Olbermann, 1929-2009.  This remembrance is not going to be a medical story, although lord knows mom was the foremost authority on her own health.  Nor is it going to consist of me telling you that she was the proverbial saint, although I can hear her saying, go ahead.  I‘m not going to disagree with you.  Who is going to disagree with you?

It is not going to be a full biography.  Suffice to say, she was a gifted preschool teacher and a legendary authority on opera.  Somewhere, she is going to be genuinely disappointed that I did not get Placido Domingo to sing at the memorial service.  I thought instead it would be best to focus on something for which she became and remained pretty famous, literally until the day she died.

My mother was one of the best-known baseball fans in this country.  She attended games of the New York Yankees from 1934 to 2004, and she watched or listened to every one she didn‘t go to up until last month.  My guess is she went to at least 1,500 of them, most of them in that seat right there, where the Fox cameras captured her late in the season of 2000.

As recently as the 13th of last month, Jerry Manual, the manager of the New York Mets, came over to me on a field in Lakeland, Florida before an exhibition game and asked me how she was.  He was the fifth or sixth active baseball figure to have done so this year alone.  They have averaged at least one or two a month for nearly a decade now.  Saturday afternoon, not six hours before mom died, a New York Yankees executive made reference to that which had made mom famous in the ballparks, and trust me, mom loved being famous in the ballparks.  Even if it had to have been attained this way on June 17th, 2000.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And these are the problems that have become well documented over the last few days.  Throwing it into the stands and ironically enough, the ball hit Keith Olbermann‘s mother right between the eyes.  She was all right.  The glasses were broken.


OLBERMANN:  Four days after her birthday, mom had found herself in the middle of one of the great melt downs in sports history, a sudden and growing inability of the ill-fortuned second baseman Chuck Knoblauch of the Yankees to make any kind of throw, easy or hard, to first base.  Chuck was in the middle of losing his beloved father at that time.  Though I thought I got what that meant to him then, I didn‘t really understand it at all until this afternoon as I wrote this, and I struggled to find the right keys, let alone the right words.

For three days in 2000, mom was on one or both of the covers of the “New York Post” and the “New York Daily News” and “New York News Day.”  She was somewhere in every newspaper in America.  And all this happened while I was the host of the baseball game of the week for Fox.  Needless to say, I managed to get an interview with her for the pregame show the following Saturday, an exclusive interview.  Although don‘t think I didn‘t have to work for it.


OLBERMANN:  Joining us now for her first interview since the Knoblauch incident, my mom.  Are you OK?

MARIE OLBERMANN, MOTHER OF KEITH OLBERMANN:  I‘m pretty good.  A little bruised, but OK.

OLBERMANN:  Mom, you‘ve been going to games since—so long that you met Babe Ruth when you were a toddler.  Have you ever been near a foul ball or thrown ball before?

M. OLBERMANN:  Not that close.  No, not really.  No.

OLBERMANN:  And this was close enough?

M. OLBERMANN:  Too close.

OLBERMANN:  A lot of the pitchers are saying this year that the hitters are doing better because the ball is harder than it has been in the past.  Would you agree that it‘s harder than it has been in the past?

M. OLBERMANN:  It‘s the hardest one I‘ve ever been hit with.

OLBERMANN:  You went back to Yankee Stadium the next day.  Why?

M. OLBERMANN:  To see the game.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have any worry about Chuck, either as a Yankee fan or for your own safety?

M. OLBERMANN:  Not really.  I sympathize with him.

OLBERMANN:  Why do you sympathize with him?

M. OLBERMANN:  Because I‘m a little awkward at times too.

OLBERMANN:  But you‘re not playing second base with the Yankees, are you?

M. OLBERMANN:  Not yet.

OLBERMANN:  Have you been surprised by all the newspaper attention?

M. OLBERMANN:  A little bit, but I want to know why they keep mentioning you.

OLBERMANN:  Uh, OK.  What matters most, obviously, mom, is that you‘re all right.  But I‘ve got to ask you, in closing, it‘s no secret that I collect memorabilia.  Like I‘m telling you something you don‘t know.  You had to clean most of it up.  But can have the ball?

M. OLBERMANN:  You can bid on it when I auction it off, just like everyone else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four million.  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  My mother, everybody.


OLBERMANN:  My great thanks to my old boss, David Hill, at Fox Sports, for his kindness in letting us run that tonight.

Anyway, for the rest of the year, any time Fox broadcast a game from Yankee Stadium, mom got on TV again.  We even talked about her during the World Series broadcast that fall, during which began this ritual that continues to this day, players, players who were at the game, players who only heard about the game, players asked me about my mom.

Since the day it happened, I‘ve been told Chuck Knoblauch has been mortified by it.  Chuck, give yourself a break.  You made her famous.  She loved it.  She could not have been happier if they let her pinch-hit for you.

A full circle that is.  It was mother who was the fan in our family.  My dad likes the game enough, but the Yankees traded his favorite player away, and he‘s still mad at them.  This happened late in 1948.  So it was mom who introduced me to the game.  In my teenage years, when we went nearly every day, it was she who trundled me and my sister to the ballpark.  It was on her TV that I came to love the sport and by her side that I began to understand it.  And sitting next to her that I began to understand that I was not going to be any damn good playing it, and if I wanted in, maybe I‘d better try talking about it.

Thus was born a career, the results of which you see now.  At least half of the ham comes from her.  She was an aspiring ballerina.  And when I keep talking and talking and talking, for good or for ill, that‘s pretty much all her.  What I don‘t have pictures of are the thousands of hours she spent driving me to and from school so I could work on the newspaper or announce the hockey game.

In retrospect, it‘s obvious she was, to adapt a phrase, a media mom.  It was the proverbial sudden illness in the best of senses.  She had no apparent symptoms until two weeks ago.  She was not severely afflicted until ten days ago.  The treatment lessened her pain, and she never awakened, thus never had to hear, nor did any of us have to say, you have terminal cancer.

I‘m not going to end with harangue about how you need to go see your doctor, because not feeling so bad does not mean you are not sick, though you should keep that in mind.  But knowing those of you who watch this show and others I‘ve done, I‘m always overwhelmed by your support and how personally you take all this.  If you are so inclined, instead of flowers or card or whatever, make a donation to Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation or St. Jude‘s hospital.  They do such important work there too.

Marie Olbermann is survived by her husband, my dad, my sister Jen and her husband and their two kids, Jacob and Eve, mom‘s grandchildren.  By her cousins Robert and Bill Shlombom (ph) and their families, by just about everybody in baseball, and by me.  Good night, mom, and good luck.

Olbermann has already won the Edward R. Murrow award for this story. He has won multiple other awards for reporting, including a previous Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the events of 9/11.

David Weigle Gets Position At MSNBC

I’m glad to see that David Weigle found another job so soon after leaving The Washington Post (for reasons discussed here). Mediaite reports that he will be working for MSNBC. Keith Olbermann introduced him at the end of Countdown as new a “MSNBC contributor.” Mediaite has a video of the announcement and reports, “Mediaite has confirmed from MSNBC that Weigel’s role will be both paid and exclusive to the network. It’s likely, then that we’ll see Weigel show up on other non-Countdown programs on MSNBC as well.”

David Weigel Leaves Washington Post Following Leaks Of Criticism Of Right Wing

David Weigel provides a demonstration of how nothing on the web is really private–even on closed lists where such privacy is assumed. Weigel is a left libertarian whose views of the right wing seem to be similar to my own. It is not so much their views which repel myself and I believe Weigel, but that their actual policy positions turn out to be quite different from their limited government rhetoric. On top of that, there is the anti-intellectualism, adherence to conspiracy theories and revisionist history, xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism which, while not true of everyone on the right, is far too common for comfort.

Weigel was hired to cover the right wing for The Washington Post to some degree  I did question a major newspaper hiring him for such a position, suspecting from the start that his views might give conservatives more fuel for their attacks on the imaginary “liberal media.”

If this was the outcome, it wasn’t because of  any unfair bias being displayed in Weigel’s work. Even some conservatives were supportive of Weigel, such as at The American Spectator:

To start with, it’s important to note that all of the comments at the center of the recent uproar were made on a private email list that was supposed to be off the record. Just for a moment, think of the things that you’d say if you were joking or venting anger among friends, and imagine if they became public with context removed. If everything we said privately were public, I wonder how many of us would be able to maintain jobs or friendships. Weigel is being attacked for writing that the world would be better if Matt Drudge could “set himself on fire.” But people make off hand remarks like that all the time without literally wishing bodily harm upon other humans.

This and other private comments by Weigel have contributed to the charge that he’s hostile toward conservatives and a standard issue liberal, but I don’t think that’s accurate. I could just as easily report on private conversations in which he’s revealed a fondness for Ronald Reagan, a willingness to vote for Bobby Jindal as president, and agreed that Van Jones should have been fired for his 9/11 trutherism. Plus, it should be noted that in the past, he’s even contributed to the American Spectator.

It should also be noted that he went on Keith Olbermann’s show and shot down a story about Sarah Palin committing perjury that had been lighting up the liberal blogs and defended Cato’s Michael Cannon against a “dishonest and unfair hit” by the Center for American Progress.

I’ve disagreed with Weigel on a number of occasions, and have called him out when I’ve felt he’s placed an inordinate amount of focus on fringe characters or extreme statements made by conservatives. But I also know that he isn’t some “drive by” journalist. He knows his subject matter well, reads constantly, goes to lots of conservative events, maintains friendships with conservatives, and talks to a lot of conservatives for his articles and quotes them accurately.

Weigel’s resignation came not as a result of any signs of bias in his work but because of comments written on Journolist, a private email list, which were leaked. Unfortunately Weigel probably saw his comments as being the equivalent of private conservation when in reality any comments made on line can wind up being as public as anything posted on a blog.

It is unfortunate that Weigel is no longer at The Washington Post, but I am confident that he will find other sources to write for. I certainly hope so as we certainly need voices like his to help counter all the ignorance, hatred, and misinformation being spread by the authoritarian right.

Theodore Olbermann, Father of Keith Olbermann, Has Died

Theodore Olbermann, father of Keith Olbermann, died earlier today at age 81. Keith had discussed his father’s prolonged illness in a Special Comment on health care entitled An American Cry For Help in late February. Both video and a full transcript are posted here.

Olbermann discussed his father at his blog today:

My father died, in the city of his birth, New York, at 3:50 EST this afternoon.

Though the financial constraints of his youth made college infeasible, he accomplished the near-impossible, becoming an architect licensed in 40 states. Much of his work was commercial, for a series of shoe store chains and department stores. There was a time in the 1970’s when nearly all of the Baskin-Robbins outlets in the country had been built to his design, and under his direction. Through much of my youth and my early adult life, it was almost impossible to be anywhere in this country and not be a short drive to one of “his” stores.

My Dad was predeceased last year by my mother, Marie, his wife of nearly 60 years. He died peacefully after a long fight against the complications that ensued after successful colon surgery last September at the New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center. My sister Jenna and I were at his side, and I was reading him his favorite James Thurber short stories, as he left us.

I can’t say enough about Dr. Jeff Milsom and his team at the hospital, and all of those physicians and nurses and staffers in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit who looked after my Dad all this time, and kept him in their hearts. And I feel the same way about all of you who have expressed your best wishes and prayers to him, and to me, and to our family.

My Dad was my biggest booster. A day after I was hired by CNN in the summer of 1981 as a two-week vacation relief sports reporter, I traveled by train to my childhood hometown, and walked from the station towards my folks’ house. I was stopped half a dozen times before I got to my Dad’s office by people congratulating me on my impending television debut. There was, of course, only one way they could have known. My Dad, the press agent.

Of course it was he and my Mom who took me to my first Yankees games (even though my father nursed a delightful grudge against the team for trading away his favorite players, Steve Souchock and Snuffy Stirnweiss – in 1948 and 1950). But as my interest in the sport began to take the shape of a dreamt-of career, it was my Dad also sacrificed family vacations so we could buy ever more tickets to Yankee games. When we could afford both games and vacations, four times those vacations were to Spring Training.

He was my inspiration, and will always remain so. His bravery these last six months cannot be measured. He is as much my hero now, as he was when I was five years old.