Tarnished Star #2? Keith Olbermann Does a Nastier Version of the Bill Richardson “Turn on the Clintons”

Here’s must read article in the New Yorker magazine entitled “One Angry Man” that really describes in gory detail the Keith Olbermann personality disturbance which manifested during the primaries. The article starts with how Olbermann has become the latest to help transform “news” into “opinion” on cable, even before the primary season, but the really interesting part of the piece comes later in the piece and centers on Olbermann’s nasty turn on the Clintons. It’s one thing to change one’s allegiance, but another to do so with such overt hostility. Richardson, at least, didn’t get nearly as nasty as he threw the Clintons under the bus. And Richardson doesn’t have a nightly television show which he can use to deliver a regular pounding.

I remember, as does the author, the time when Olbermann was a fan of Bill Clinton, in the era B.B.O. (Before Barack Obama). Clinton, for all his troubles, was what Republicans could be compared to, much to the detriment of the current Administration.

Olbermann says that he began the campaign season determined to remain neutral on the Democratic race, although he was plainly friendly with the Clintons. (During an interview with Bill Clinton in 2006, Olbermann handed the former President a personal donation to the Clinton Foundation.) Olbermann liked Obama, but he believed, at first, that he would not make a strong candidate.

Then, of course, the wheels came off. Olbermann, once the daring, outspoken “truthseeker,” bought into the meme that Clinton and surrogates were “attacking” Obama. I recently rewatched what I think was a pivotal moment in the shift of the season’s narrative. It’s the video of Michelle Obama just before the South Carolina primary in which she is asked why Obama has, if I recall correctly, “only 38% of the black vote” and she stated that figure would change because “black people will wake up.” We all know now that the campaign to turn Bill Clinton into a racist bloomed then.

As the tide began to turn Obama’s way, Olbermann began to grow impatient with Clinton surrogates’ attacks on Obama, and, seemingly, with the persistence of the candidate herself. As Obama neared apparent assurance of the nomination, Olbermann began to raise questions about Clinton’s arithmetic on the popular vote, about her wanting to change the rules regarding the Florida and Michigan primaries, about why she didn’t just do the right thing and get out.

Olbermann ratcheted up the hostility after Gerry Ferraro’s comments:

In March, after Geraldine Ferraro said that Obama would not be where he is if he were not a black man, Olbermann issued a Special Comment that was aimed expressly at Clinton’s advisers (and their countenancing of Ferraro’s “cheap, ignorant, vile racism”) but that struck Clinton nonetheless. “Voluntarily or inadvertently,” Olbermann said, addressing Clinton directly, “you are still awash in this filth.”

In May after Clinton referred to Bobby Kennedy being in race in June when he was assassinated, Olbermann let fly with this:

For those willing to ascribe iniquity to all things Clinton, the remark was shocking. “Why, in the name of all that all of us hold dear, would anybody ever say anything like this?” Olbermann asked, at the beginning of his broadcast that night. “Can she in good conscience continue in the race for President after having said anything like this? Is her political career at an end?” At the conclusion of his show, Olbermann subjected Clinton to the Special Comment treatment. Assuming a posture of animated outrage, Olbermann blasted Clinton for nearly eleven minutes, suggesting that her remarks were calculated and “heartless.” He recited a number of sins for which Clinton had already been forgiven, from her landing-under-fire-in-Bosnia claim to her exploitation of the Jeremiah Wright controversy.

“This, Senator, is too much,” he concluded. “Because a senator, a politician, a person who can let hang in midair the prospect that she might just be sticking around, in part, just in case the other guy gets shot has no business being, and no capacity to be, the President of the United States.”

All along, Tom Brokaw was expressing his concerns about Olbermann’s antics. Finally, at the very end, Olbermann softened his rhetoric:

Olbermann was in a more conciliatory mood toward Clinton by the time she finally suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama. Of that speech, on Saturday, June 7th, Olbermann observed, “It was marbled, it was striated,” and, of the section in which Clinton praised Obama, “I mean, six home runs, six minutes’ worth of home runs, one after the other, out of the ballpark.”

Too little too late for this former Olbermann viewer. I once found Olbermann to be a breath of fresh air and was especially proud because he, like I, had graduated from Cornell University. I had been the advertising manager of the Cornell Daily Sun and also wrote for the news section my senior year. We were proud of the work we did as “Ithaca’s Only Morning Newspaper.”

So, Olbermann has disgraced himself and hasn’t helped Cornell either. I read that he is the running for the Meet the Press slot. I don’t know who would be worse…Olbermann or Chris Matthews. Either way, they are equal in being often unprofessional and certainly NOT “Fair and balanced.” In fact, they both seem a little UNbalanced to me…Funny thing is, 7 years ago, when I started contributing to Buzzflash, one of my first little essays was a humorous piece on how Matthews “The Screamer” had checked in for some psychiatric evaluation.

Maybe I should update that piece to include Olbermann…

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6 Responses

  1. I am ashamed to admit that “Countdown” used to be a nightly event for me. But some time before Olbermann became Obama’s press agent I became somewhat disenchanted. There is a meanness in the man that is there if you look for it. There is a pettiness in the man if you look for it. (The feud with O’Reilly is petty, silly and should be beneath a man of Olbermann’s years.)

    Olbermann on MTP? Worst Choice In The World! Follewed closely by Matthews. I would guess neither will get it.

  2. My husband will sadden to hear that his great Alma Mater, Cornell Univeristy also educated Oba mann. We watched him nightly too, until his program turned into a freak show.

    In regards to Matthews, I believe he is more able to curtail his demons on the air.. not to society standards.. but in anycase
    he seems a tiny bit more *stable* then the obama mann.

    I will forgive Matthews and give him another chance. Maybe he can live up to his late boss.. Tim Russerts more fair interviewing style while still keeping his hardball edge.. I wont forgive the dumbass Olbermann. Ever.

  3. I am another person who has become disenchanted with Olbermann since his attack on Geraldine Ferraro. When he doubled down with his attack on Hillary Clinton personally for “invoking” the assassination of Bobby Kennedy as a “reason” to stay in the race, I experienced a physical revulsion.

  4. Delighted to read that none other than the New Yorker magazine has done what should have been done months ago – a piece slamming Keith Olbermann for his pathologic rants against Hillary Clinton that went on night after night – with nobody calling him out for it. Matthews was bad, too, but not as. These guys shouldn’t be given the time of day (or night), let alone any credence by discerning, decent-thinking people. Where have all the real journalists and commentators gone? These clowns aren’t even in the “poor imitations” category. Can you imagine Olbermann, signing off with Edward R. Murrow’s “Good night, and good luck.” I don’t care what he uses for a rationale. What a pathetic little man.

  5. It’s too bad that OberBall went 100% ObamaRama.

  6. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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