Olbermann: The mouth that bored

Keith Olbermann, MSNBC’s pied piper of partisan political punditry, may be starting to wear thin with the very people who made him a star — the political left wing.

After trumpeting a meaningless ratings win over right-wing Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly, who was on vacation, Olbermann’s tiresome self-promotion act went into overdrive.

Despite the packaging, Olbermann is not a newsman. He’s a sitdown comic, little more than a left-wing hyperbole-driven alternative to O’Reilly’s right-wing bitterness. Those who consider the pap that Olbermann dishes out each night on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" news don’t want news but only a left-wing alternative to conservative propaganda outlets like Fox. Like O’Reilly, Olbermann is a partisan who substitutes opinion for fact and bias for objectivity.

Journalism is not served by partisan pundits on either side of the political spectrum. It is cheapened by the Sean Hannitys, Geraldo Riveras, Rush Limbaughs, Bill O’Reillys and Keith Olbermanns of the world.

When a journalist takes sides, the public loses beause those who accept a partisan pundits ravings as news get only part of the story.

Which is why some are taking a second, harder look at what Olbermann pedals as "news."

Writes Howard Rosenburg in The Los Angeles Times (hardly a bastion of conservatism):

It seems like a couple of centuries since His Holiness Pope Walter reigned as God’s deputy on the airwaves. Even longer if you think about leave-’em-laughing funnyman Keith Olbermann.

The leer, the smug histrionics, the relentless needling, the shameless self-puffery, the accusatory rants excoriating Bushies and other Republicans as well as cable competitor Fox and its temperamental bully, Bill O’Reilly. And, of course, the comedy.

"Countdown With Keith Olbermann" is the bean ball between "Hardball With Chris Matthews" and "Verdict With Dan Abrams" in MSNBC’s weekday lineup. This trio has spent the election season heckling Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton from deep inside Sen. Barack Obama’s hip pocket and hammering Sen. John McCain since Day One.

Olbermann and Matthews co-anchored MSNBC’s coverage of this year’s party caucuses and primaries, and when Obama clinched the Democratic nomination this week, calming down these guys would have required a defibrillator. But the low point was New Hampshire, when they spent probably 15 minutes giggling at and making fun of the speech McCain gave after topping that primary’s GOP field.

All right, McCain couldn’t give a good speech even if he were lip-syncing Obama. Yet inept as he was, the news nihilism of Olbermann and Matthews was worse. And Olbermann hasn’t let up; he’s now attacking McCain’s grammar.

While right-wing blogs and news sites have long questioned Olbermann’s tactics and objectivity, the left-wing is chiming in. Notes Radar:

Has Keith Olbermann always been this aneurysm-inducing, or is he feeling extra bombastic after his narrow "victory" over a vacationing Bill O’Reilly? We have no idea why MSNBC wants us to feel sympathetic toward Katie Couric, but a couple more monologues like this and we’re starting a damn fan club.

Writes Rachael Sklar on The Huffington Post:

I find it a bit rich that Keith Olbermann would chastise anyone on the subject of "separating the hype from the news" or "the nonsense that Senator Clinton was a victim of pronounced sexism." And yet he did just that last night in naming Katie Couric his "Worst Person in the World" for speaking out about the sexism evidenced in some of the media coverage of Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign. Nonsense? Really? It took a while but geez, even Howard Dean has figured it out.

Time Magazine notes that "Olbermann is edging ever-closer to self-parody, or, worse, predictability."

Adds Danny Shea of The Huffington Post:

Many have questioned the appropriateness of Olbermann — and his primary-night partner Chris Matthews — anchoring election night coverage while espousing strong opinions of his own. During coverage of the Montana and South Dakota primaries, Tom Brokaw chided Olbermann on air for alleging that Hillary Clinton was "trying to shoe-horn her way into" the night of McCain’s and Obama’s speeches. Brokaw would later claim that the press drumbeat for Clinton’s exit from the race — of which Olbermann was a major part — was "inappropriate," and it was "commentary disguised as reporting."



  1. jzelensk

    For literally years only Keith Olberman was willing to point out the horrors of the Bushites. At least give him credit for that while just about everyone on TV (Bill Moyers excepted) cowered under the neocons. I’m not sure that the American people would have begun (ever so slowly) to awake from their sleepwalking were it not for Keith.

  2. incog99

    In light of Russert’s passing…

    This article is in bad taste to say the least.

    Olbermann is our Murrow. Right now a voice in the wilderness.


  3. RafaelApollo

    I watch three things devotedly in the evening. Countdown and the Daily Show and Colbert. Because I get everything I want from them. Most of that being the humor.

    I started watching Countdown years ago because of oddball which I just loved. I think Keith is unique, utterly. I admire his class, his courage and his very distinct ability to relate. He has great charisma.

    I think he thrives on confrontation and controversy and I LOVE his crossing of swords with the nauseating O’Reilly and the vacuous fools at FOX.

    His “Special Comments” are well drawn, concise, emotional and targeted. I was astonished the first time I heard one. I am never bored by it. I watch the show three times a night because I want to get all the detail. Aside from Stewart and Colbert-I have never laughed so hard.

    Keith is a rare voice in the wilderness. He really echoes in some ways as a comically updated Edward R. Murrow. He goes full bore into the dark belly of the neo-cons and the gang that can’t talk straight in D.C. and he never relents. I am most especially delighted that he is so greatly hated by Cheney, as well.

    I especially like his analysis of daily events relating to the Constitution and his interviews. For good measure there is Rachel Maddow whom I find very enlightening.

    For the record I am non-partisan, non-politics (although I have been on the periphery of them for several years.) I find this show refreshing and fun. And in this world what is wrong with that.

    Info-tainmment or not I get more from this than any ten news shows.

    I am such a fan that the weekends are long without him.

    The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be lighted.

  4. Ladywolf55

    Wexler, my 88-year-old Aunt is one of those evacuated. She lives near downtown CR. Yes, many things seem very insignificant when you see people losing homes they have lived in for 70 years.

    However, you were very insulting in your posts, insinuated Doug should “bonk” me to keep people coming to his site. Your asinine and sexist comments tell what type of person you truly are. You weren’t simply disagreeing with Doug about his opinion, you were being insulting and nasty.


  5. Jonnan

    This is neither here nor there, but – “clearly implying someone ought to beat her up. Literally.”?

    I don’t know *anyone* (Until, evidently, now) that would take that as an implication of anything of the sort. “Locking them in a closet and see who comes out” is a pretty common metaphor for fighting out a tough issue, and yet in all my years of hearing it, I have yet to be subpoenaed to even one solitary trial.

    Rhetoric like drawing a direct line from a common metaphor to sexism is one of the things that has driven people *away* from supporting Hillary.


  6. claypigeonbx

    Freedom and Justice for All!

    CR? Is that Cedar Rapids? When I lived there, two tornadoes leveled paths through the city, but no floods.
    If you are there, please stay safe.

    Keith Olbermann? Love him! Yes, he is extravagant in his expression of his opinions, but since his opinions generally match mine, I enjoy his performances.

    A real reporter? No. A fairly reponsible commentator. Yes. Biased? Absolutely! But name one “newsman” in this century who isn’t.

    Bill Moyers actually does some very good investigative reporting. But given his selection of subjects, I doubt even he could be regarded as objective.

  7. Jonnan

    To be Blunt – For Keith Olbermann to be the left wing equivalent of Bill O’Reilly, he would have to be not merely partisan, but dishonest.

    I have seen a lot of attempts to paint him as exactly that, but frankly – when I look up the facts after Bill O’Reilly is accused of dishonesty, I find he has actually been dishonest.

    When I look up the facts when Keith Olbermann is accused of dishonesty I find it is either something minor (and typically with a retraction and apology for the error) or it is not dishonesty but an attempt to smear the man.

    Not to say that there aren’t valid objections to his style – My mother desperately dislikes the fact that his show doesn’t simply report the news. For myself, I rather enjoy the editorial content (It’s not like the media is awash with liberal editorial perspective), although I could do without some of the attempts that seem to compete more with “The Daily Show” than Walter Cronkite.

    But, at the end of the day, while there is editorial comment, the facts are presented, are accurate, and are distinguishable from the opinion, at least for me.

    When Olbermann makes editorial comments on par with Bill O’Reilly claiming U.S. troops committed Nazi atrocities in WW II, then, by all means, trumpet it into the air.

  8. RealityBytes

    [Sorry. Had to edit this, I was mixing up Rachel Sklar’s particular ‘sexism’ comment with your general observation that Olbermann is not ‘news’ – I can see your point, bit I do wonder about one of your cites:]

    Did Rachael Sklar actually watch the video?

    Olbermann, in that particular piece, was NOT objecting to Couric’s characterization of sexist treatment of Clinton by the media; he VERY SPECIFICALLY allowed that, but objected instead to her suggestion that Lee Cowan find another job, after misquoting Cowan when he said, after covering an Obama rally, that he found it difficult to remain objective… Olbermann is CLEARLY defending Cowan (and specifically states in this piece that this is his sole reason for Couric’s ‘nomination’) as one of the most objective reporters around.

    I confess that I don’t know Cowan’s work; but if your argument is that Cowan *was* sexist in his reporting, and that Olbermann was wrong to defend him by declaring Couric’s remarks about Cowan as objectionable, than that is what you should have reported.

    Having said all that, in the process of looking at all these videos, I did indeed find something that shocked me about Olbermann… his on-air suggestion that someone needs to “take Hillary into a room where only he comes out”, clearly implying someone ought to beat her up. Literally. Of course, everyone has made stupid remarks off-the-cuff (like Huckabee’s remark about Obama getting shot at, or that one woman who suggested we would be better off if we were rid of both Osama and Obama), but it doesn’t make Olbermann’s less stupid or less offensive… and until he apologizes, profusely, for such a comment, I nominate Keith Olbermann as “Worst Person in the World”

    p.s. I’m in Cedar Rapids, this is the first time I’ve had to do any sandbagging – and the river won anyway. Nevertheless, we continue, I’m sure it will mean something to the folks whose houses may yet be saved, on the edge. Thanks for your thoughts.

  9. WWWexler

    Well thank you, Pablo.

    After having a few hours to think this over, I realize that Doug is just doing what he thinks is right. For whatever reason, even if it escapes me. I don’t really have a beef with Doug, just a disagreement.

    Soliciting comments on your website is a really difficult thing to manage, which is why I’ve never set that up on my own website. I’ll admit to being too immersed in some issues to referee comments about them fairly.

    But on the other hand, who says it has to be fair? After all, if you’re paying the bills, you more or less own a piece of the net. You’d sure be responsible for it if, for example, you were selling kiddie porn.

    Some guys just don’t like being told they’re wrong. I’m one of them. I got into it with Josh Holland over at Alternet and ended up banned there because I refused to let him off the hook. The issue there was that Obama had just won Iowa and Alternet took it upon themselves to run a series of hit pieces on Obama (which, BTW, have been proven to be false). A pro Hillary piece or two was thrown in for good measure. I called them on their bias, and Josh didn’t like being accused of being part of an organized attack on Obama. But he was. That was too bad, because I’m a big fan of Jon Alter and have been visiting that site since the beginning of it.

    Anyway, as I alluded to earlier in this thread, there are 20,000 people just down the road a piece that are evacuated, probably half of them have lost everything they own. Most of the flooded areas are the oldest part of CR where the poorest people live. Downtown is under water. This whole spat seems pretty insignificant in the big picture.

    So Doug doesn’t like Olbermann. I do. No big deal.


  10. km0591

    Well, I suppose people should be slanted to perpetual cynicism and curmudgeonry like Doug.

  11. Pablo

    I’m sure I am not the only one who would miss your commentary were you to leave us.
    Please reconsider.

  12. Pablo

    Oh, here we go
    again, the sex card. Obviously anybody who rips on hillary is sexist; it couldn’t be because that she sent us to war, has run a mean-spirited campaign, or because she has been caught lying to her supporters, no way.

  13. buckethead

    Of course you can call him entertainment. That’s the state of the newa today. With the idiots running things now, one has to use a little humor to deal with it. Yeah, he makes it entertainmest. And as far as the anger goes…sometimes it is called far. Good.

  14. storky

    Our family of four agreed to eliminate broadcast TV from our diet in February 2007. We did, however, keep our high-speed internet connection. It was through the Crooks and Liars website that I was first exposed to Keith Olberman. I later found his free audio and video podcasts.

    Commentary isn’t the news, Doug. For news I can always turn to the BBC or multiple other Brit newssites that tend not to suppress information damaging to one party or another. Keith’s show is infotainment. But, like The Daily Show with John Stewart, it tends to be more informative than most US network news outlets.

  15. knockknock

    Hi Doug — nice to read your opinion again!

    This is a great place to let off steam (and other bodily produce).

    All kinds of opinions found here help to make a broader picture of readers, sort of an American nugget.


  16. Alexandria Lupu

    NY native
    I used to watch Keith, until I realized that he, Chris Matthews & others on the MSNBC & NBC stations were madly in love with Obama & were particularly nasty & sexist re: Hillary, and now Katie Couric. These machos are off my viewing list forever.

  17. DejaVuAllOver

    The “left-wingers” you quote as getting tired of Olbermann are nothing of the sort. They’re still corporate types working in a system which accepts viewpoints ranging from far right to slightly left of there. No one with the IQ of celery ever tried to argue that Olbermann tries to present both viewpoints, but c’mon. The MSM (including close to centrist LA Times) will always look to exploit any weakness in the left. The Huffingtons and Courics of the world will always try to keep women’s issues in the foreground, particularly after their girl lost.

    This is just business as usual, nothing more. Although it does point out the obvious: right and left are still relevant on a single issue only. Even liberals can have conservative streaks, and vice versa.

  18. Sandra Price

    Okay guys, I have been here and around Doug for many years. He takes on everyone, even me when I deserve it.

    We have a choice to watch Bill-O or Keith Olbermann. My choice is Keith! It’s like I have chosen not to watch Rush as he insults women and gays. Where the hell do we find anyone today that is content with our news coverage or our television? I happen to enjoy Keith’s coverage and his Rachel with her liberal views that seem to validate his. What’s the big deal?

    MSNBC balances out most of their coverage using Pat Buchanan. I may not appreciate all of Pat’s comments but he has been the most consistent Republican for 30 years. I never voted for him as he is a Catholic before he is an American. That is why he wants the Prohibitions put into the Constitution. They are taught from childhood to pass the word on to everyone even if it means using the government. Matthews is another one except he questions many of the Church’s mandates and wants to leave them up to the individual. We all share a lack of respect for McCain. Let’s hear it from Doug and anyone else who ventures into our world of CHB.