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I have been taking on Keith Olbermann of MSNBC over the past few weeks at The National Debate and gaining traction for the "KO KO campaign." As Keith descends deeper into the realm of crackpot conspiracy theorists it seems about time for Olbermann Watch. We intend to watch Keith Olbermann for examples of the usual liberal bias stuff but will be particularly interested in example of Keith lifting questionable, erroneous or false information off of the internet without fact-checking and passing it off as his own reporting as well as booking guests making unsupported, erroenous or irrational statements.
To produce the site I am looking for contributors who will help share the load on the following efforts to monitor Keith Olbermann.
1. Watch Countdown on a specific day of the week each week then write a post of what transpired afterwards, also link to the show transcript the following day. Ideally these people would have the ability to TIVO the show and grab video clips as appropriate but for now this is not a requirement.
2. Read Bloggerman each day then write a post about Keith's posts.
3. Monitor GoogleNewsAlerts for stories about "Keith Olbermann"
4. Monitor Feedster.com for blog posts about "Keith Olbermann"
Contributors are being offered nothing more than a chance to tweak Olbermann, get a prominent link back to their own blogs for some greater exposure and earn the enmity of the tin-foil hat crowd.
If you are interested to be considered as a contributor contact me at robert-dot-cox-at-thenationaldebate-dot-com. If you are part of the loony left and really angry about the creation of this site go panhandle an extra quarter in Times Square and call someone who cares.
Tom Biro from The Media Drop sends along this story from the school newspaper at Olbermann's college alma mater. The last bit especially is such a good example of Olbermann's hyperventilated mindset that further commentary is hardly necessary.
"You see machines with inaccurate vote counts, you see stories about unused voting machines in a warehouse when the precincts were begging for more machines because of long lines and long waits; these are facts, they are suggestive facts," he said.
"The only way that we can find out what happened is to ventilate the issue and find out what's wrong with these 'Rube Goldberg' voting machines." Olbermann said. "There is no national standard for elections, and if we don't get one, we are going to have an election just like the one in the Ukraine."
What would happen if the Ohio result were overturned? "It's all political science fiction at this point. If something is found in Ohio, and Ohio is found to go for Kerry, it would be fascinating to see what the Republicans would do," he said.
He said that the Republicans in Congress would have to make a choice about whether to support the President, or risk their own seat in Congress due to recall or impeachment. They would have to decide whether they would go down with the president or save themselves. "We have proved time and time again that self-interest will trump party interests. This could become a non-partisan issue," Olbermann said.
Let me agree with Olbermann on one point at least, we need a more uniform, reliable way to manage elections.
A little update on the campaign to force Keith Olbermann to start coming clean on his "sources" for his "vote fraud" stories.
James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com chimed with let's not forget MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who according to blogger Robert Cox has been pushing all kinds of wacky conspiracy theories. in this Best of the Web column.
Cory Bergman of Lost Remote called the Observer piece fascinating but seemed to have missed the point that media columnist Joe Hagan was not actually endorsing Olbermann's "obsession" with the "Vote Fraud" issue.
Meanwhile, a tangential dispute has developed over at the MSN Group for MSNBC. There has been some nasty name-calling over backdated time-stamps between Brian Stelter of TVNewser and Mark Koldys of Johnny Dollar's Place. The issue came up in Mark's post on Keith Olbermann and his overreliance on internet sources of questionable reputations for accuracy.
Joe Hagan is taking no prisoners in his NYTV column in today's New York Observer article on KO - OLBERMANN'S RECOUNTDOWN. Appropriately, KO was knocked down the page by the breaking Dan Rather story so you need to skim down a bit to find the piece.
As KO's #1 Blog-critic, I was interviewed for the piece. TND readers may have a bit of deja vu in reading through Hagan's line of argument - that Keith is openly embracing a bunch of left-wing crackpot conspiracy theories and putting a good deal of phony, false and erroneous information in the air at MSNBC.
It is worth noting that The National Debate is the only non-lefty web site that Keith mentions reading. It's not clear, however, that he is terribly receptive to the criticisms I have made since he desbribes his critics as "belligerently uninformative."
Hagan describes TND as "right-wing" and Olbermann references "partisan Republicans" so let me add, for the record, I was a Democrat up until 1996 and am now a registered independent who would greatly prefer to see the demise of the two-party system. I tend to criticize the left far more because they are far more likely to be journalists and journalists are more likely to claim they are non-partisan and objective when it is obvious they are not - as is the case with KO.
I recommend reading the entire piece but here are a few highlights:
The bespectacled newsman has dedicated numerous broadcasts and copious blogging hours to "voting irregularities" since Nov. 8 - every scrap of evidence or even feeble insinuation was kindling for a burning obsession that has largely been dismissed elsewhere in TV - land. Nowadays, Countdown is Recountdown.
Mr. Olbermann is going Watergate on the Ohio recount, making his show a major-media beachhead for dozens of lefty quasi-conspiracy theorists who clearly wanted to one-up the guys who hog-tied Dan Rather over the summer. These bloggers, said Mr. Olbermann, were his allies: They "can go places I canâ€™t go. They are my minionsâ€”like an unpaid research staff."
...however far-fetched his project, Mr. Olbermann - a Watergate buf - dug in his heels. One out of every 20 e-mails he has received "literally says, 'Hang in there. Keep doing it.' And it's been very moving and very eye-opening." And so down the wormhole he went. It didn't bother Mr. Olbermann that most of his cheerleaders were Web-based Democrats. He said he read a number of blogs, including the left-wing Daily Kos and the right-wing [The] National Debate.
MORE FODDER FOR OLBERMANN: A federal judge denied a request by third-party presidential candidates who wanted to force a recount of Ohio ballots even before the official count was finished.
CORY BERGMAN AT LOST REMOTE: a reality-based take on Hagan's piece.
UPDATE: Joe Hagan left The New York Observer and this column is no longer available for free. Follow this link to Dan Rather Says He'd Have Liked Another Decade; the Keith Olbermann "profile" entitled "Olbermann's Recountdown" is contained within that issue's column.
A reader sent me this image/link. I'd like to give proper credit so if you know who created this let me know.
Keith Olbermann is still missing. On his blog, Olbermann, or someone posting on the Bloggerman web site, has suggested that Olbermann's sudden departure from the Countdown set at MSNBC was pre-planned. Others are not so sure. Please do your part and keep an eye for Keith - perhaps roaming the streets of Warren County or banging on the barred windows of your local loony bin.
If you have a "Keith-sighting" to report please contact The National Debate at firstname.lastname@example.org
On a more serious note, I wrote a letter yesterday to Rick Kaplan, President of MSNBC, registering my concerns about Olbermann's reliance on unattributed, inaccurate - sometimes phony - information from blogs, web sites and e-mails for "news" that he has demonstrably faile to fact-check. I copied Olbermann, Brian Stelter of TVNewser and Bill O'Reilly. Before posting the letter I intend to give Kaplan ample opportunity to reply.
In the meantime, it appears that Keith has "responded" in his own inimitable way with a post on his new blog where he managed to weave in a shot at O'Reilly and a plug for Stelter. On Bloggerman, Keith writes:
We may even have seen something of a reaction to this story on Fox News. There, our old loofah-wielding friend Bill O'Reilly is at it again, wandering further and further into semi-lucidity and self-contradiction. As reported by Brian Stelter over at TVNewser O'Reilly managed to put himself at direct odds with his own boss, Roger Ailes.
Olbermann may be gone but his quotes are not forgotten, in fact Olbermann is getting more press for his lone wolf coverage of the voter "fraud" issue than at anytime since the MSNBC PR Spin Machine was pumping his show shortly after its launch. Which, of course, is the entire point of Olbermann's descent into left-wing cloud koo-koo land.
"There are a lot of nervous people out there," said Olbermann, whose disappearance from MSNBC was the result not of being terminated but of taking a vacation. "I'm both amused and a little terrified that I became the subject of an Internet rumor."
More informed analysis has broken through to at least one TV network, MSNBC, where Keith Olbermann's Countdown show has been pursuing the story in a "reality-based" reportorial way.
Anyone know what a "reality-based" reportial style is?
The leading media watchdog for the vast left-wing conspiracy is stepping up its support for the beleagured MSNBC news anchor, Keith "I've got nowhere else to go" Olbermann. With his ratings disintegrating faster than a Howard Dean campaign lead, Olbermann has latched his sinking ship to the far-left's black helicopter crowd.
MMFA serves up these whoppers in Olbermann's defense...
Olbermann has not suggested that the election was stolen.
The entire premise of KO's campaign is to accept as true arguments made by Countdown guests, bloggers and other assorted kooks that are all predicated on their belief that Bush stole the 2004 election.
Olbermann's commitment to addressing voting irregularities has been coupled with commentary on the lack of media coverage they have received.
Olbermann responded to the attacks on him by citing the gradual increase in attention the voting irregularities issue is receiving among the mainstream press
In one paragraph the media is not covering the so-called "voter fraud" issue and in the next Olbermann is defending himself by citing "increased" media coverage of the issue.
The truth is that in the two weeks since the election, major media outlets including reports at MSNBC and NBC have looked into allegations of voter fraud and concluded that although there were isolated problems in a few places there is no evidence of some wide-ranging, nefarious conspiracy.
If you are known by the company that you keep MSNBC ought to be more than a little worried that the kooky-left media web site, Media Matters for America, is fast becoming a Keith Olbermann fan site.
The Los Angeles Times reported a voting irregularity during the November 2 presidential election in Youngstown, Ohio, where equipment initially recorded a negative 25 million votes for one precinct. In the 24 hours following the story's appearance, only one television news show -- MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann -- mentioned the incident.
As usual MMFA conveniently omits a few details which might explain why Olbermann was alone in reporting this story on television. The source for the "negative 25 million votes" report was a previously unknown, lefty group called Verified Voting.org which refuses to disclose its source of funding, board of advisors and governing board. While the LA Times did report the Verified Voting claim it also notes that the "negative 25 million vote" error was "discarded from official results". The LA Times article MMFA cites concludes "Voting machine failures did occur, and long lines in heavily Democratic precincts discouraged some potential voters. Still, a broad range of experts said that the final vote counts in Ohio and other states could not possibly change the outcome."
An error occurred, it was fixed. In other words, no matter how heavily Olbermann breathes as he says it, there WAS no story.
Keith Olbermann continues to "redefine" journalism standards at MSNBC. Today in a post denying rumors that he was fired, Olbermann uses the MSNBC.com web site to solicit donations for a political candidate:
...as of earlier today, the Green/Libsâ€” should we just go ahead and call them the Glibs?â€” were at $118,000 towards their Ohio war-chest goal of $150,000. I've gotten a peck of e-mails about why neither party's Website has details, and it turns out the site you want on this is VoteCobb.Org.
The only Countdown worth watching at MSNBC is "Days Remaining Until Keith Olbermann's Head Explodes."
No one has ever accused Keith Olbermann of being a journalist even though his current boss, Rick Kaplan, describes KO as a "news anchor." For sure, no one in the NBC News organization is confusing Olbermann with Huntley and Brinkley - or Lauer and Couric for that matter. The notoriously hot-tempered Olbermann is a sports guy who has bounced from network to network alienating supporters and burning bridges as he ravages the cable broadcast countryside. This Attila of the CableNets has grown increasingly erratic as his ratings nosedive has begun to approach terminal velocity. Over the past couple of months Olbermann has descended into a jouralistic netherworld where fringe web sites are news sources and fact-checking is no longer "cool" enough for the ultra-hip word stylist.
A few examples of Keith's free-fall,
On September 7th, Olbermann reported on an Indiana University study that found parents lose 12 to 20 IQ points after having children and quoted a Dr. Hosung Lee saying the report "explains why every parent thinks their child is the smartest kid in the class or the best athlete... even if that child is as dumb as a box of rocks or needs a calendar to time their 40-yard dash." And this was not just any story is was Countdown's "number one story of the day". Olbermann would have done well to trust the instincts of his next guest, Carl Reiner, who, when asked "Do you buy any of this?", replied "Not at all."
Countdown viewers may be forgiven for believing that Olbermann had read or even skimmed the study he was reporting on, or given Dr. Lee a jingle on the telephone, since he did not cite any source for his information. Despite presenting the news as original reporting, Olbermann had, in fact, pilfered the story from a single, unattributed source. For those of you who made it through high school this is sometimes referred to as "plagiarizing." And what was this single, unimpeachable source that formed the bedrock for Keith's MSNBC news report? The New York Times? The Associated Press? The New England Journal of Medicine? How about the online edition of The Hoosier Gazette?
Now every journalist worth their salt knows that it's a big time no-no to lift material from another source and pass it off as your own. People get fired for that in newsrooms all the time (see Blair, Jayson) as do their bosses (see Raines, Howell). In this case, Olbermann not only failed to credit his source but failed to verify that his source was even real.
You see, there is no such thing as The Hoosier Gazette - the online "version" is a satirical web site that features fake news from in and around Indiana. Had Olbermann even looked he might have wondered about articles such as "Indiana UFO sightings up 25% over last year" and "Jacko sells Neverland Valley, returning to Gary." Apparently, Olbermann's reporting was so lazy and sloppy that he didn't even bothered to visit the web site himself. Olbermann later admitted that he never contacted Indiana University or tried to track down Dr. Lee or a copy of the report.
Undeterred, Olbermann was back at it a few weeks later, this time slamming the host of the show which routinely trounces Countdown. On November 8th, Bill O'Reilly was named the number one "newsmaker of the day". In announcing the selection, KO said "Bill O'Reilly...told his audience that, on election night, at this hour, nine times as many Americans were watching Fox News Channel as were watching MSNBC. Actually, they had 7-1/2 million viewers at 8:00 Eastern last Tuesday. We have we had 2.6. That wouldn't be nine time as many. That would be less than three time as many. It's too bad Billy isn't as good with a calculator or a brain as he is with a loofah."
One problem. O'Reilly never said it. On Thursday, November 4th, during an interview with Bernard Goldberg - a little irony here as Goldberg has authored two books which sum up KO nicely - "Bias" and "Arrogance" - O'Reilly said "last night, on the Fox News Channel, at this hour, eight o'clock, the Factor time, nine times as many Americans watched us as MSNBC". In other words, O'Reilly was referring to Wednesday, November 3rd not election night, Tuesday, November 2nd. O'Reilly was right; Olbermann got it wrong. Too paraphrase, too bad Keith isn't as good with a transcript or a brain as he is with making up the news.
So, how did Olbermann get it wrong again? KO thinks of the internet as a sort of a virtual Burger King where, if you look hard enough, you can always "have it your way". This time, Olbermann pulled his "quote" off TVNewser, a blog web site run by a teenager in Maryland. In yet another dash of irony, the young blogger was taking a shot at O'Reilly for calling Olbermann arrogant:
...and because no day is complete without a quote from Bill O'Reilly: On election night, "nine times as many Americans watched us than MSNBC," O'Reilly said late last week. "That plurality has never been seen before in the history in network news...With respect to our colleages at that other place, they're as arrogant as they get.
Again, Olbermann failed to credit his source and, as usual, failed to fact-check a blog source. Even worse, Olbermann was just plain sloppy. The post on the blog site put the words "on election night" outside of the quotes so even TVNewser was not, technically, quoting O'Reilly. In the blogger's case, he merely got the date wrong, and the central point of TVN's jibe had nothing to do with when the comment was made. In Olbermann's case he conflated bogus information with an inaccurate, partial quote, put it in on their air with fact-checking it and compounded his errors by attempting to rip O'Reilly for getting his facts wrong. And yet Olbermann is baffled that his show runs last in the ratings week in and week out.
Earlier this week, Olbermann aired yet another e-canard, this time a supposedly mysterious outcome in five "democratic" counties in Florida which went for Bush by large margins despite a large edge in registered Democrats. KO interviewd Erica Solvig, a reporter for the Cinncinati Enquirer. Viewers were told that in "Baker County, Florida, on the Georgia border for instance. 69 percent of voter registered Democrats. 24 percent Republicans. Yet President Bush got 7,738. And Senator Kerry, just 2,180. In Holmes County, in the panhandle, seven Democrats for every two Republicans in the district. Bush beat Kerry 6,410 to 1,810. In Dixie County, 77.5 percent registered Democrats, Bush 4,433, Kerry 1,959. Lafayette County, 83 percent Democratic, Bush, 2,460. Kerry, 845. In Liberty County, Bristol, Florida, 88 percent of registered voters there are Democrat. 8 percent Republican. Bush, 1,927. Kerry, 1,070."
To appreciate the art in this "Olbermann" you have to note that the story KO is discussing, initially, is a report out of Warren County which is Erica Solvig's beat in Ohio. He introduces her by pointedly describing the Cinncinati Enquirer as a "mainstream newspaper." With KO that's code for "check your wallet" you are about to be had. Solvig talks about a story she broke in Ohio. This makes sense, her paper is from Ohio and Warren County politics is her beat. Out of the blue, Solvig pivots and starts in about Florida as if she were a native. How did Solvig suddenly become an "expert" on voting returns in obscure Florida counties? That's never explained. Nor is Solvig's source. But Keith knows.
Olbermann has once again allowed MSNBC to serve as headquarters for the Cloud Koo-Koo-land brigade. In this case, the unnamed source is a fringe-fringe web site in Utah (fringe-fringe sites are sites so fringe that fringe web sites point them to show why they are "mainstream"). A "numbers expert" from outside Salt Lake City named Kathy Dopp concocted an "analyis" that purported to show inexplicable voting patterns in counties that used electronic voting and "proved" that Bush stole the election. This on site that a week ago was getting less than 50 visitors a day. It should come as no surprise that there are more than a few problems with the analysis not the least of which is that Dopp didn't bother to examine any historical voting data. If either Dopp, Solvig or Olbermann had bothered to check, they would have seen a long history of registered Democrats living in the Florida panhandle who vote Republican in presidential elections. They are often referred to as "Southern Democrats." How is that Olbermann, who actually participated in MSNBC's election night coverage was unaware that Florida's panhandle is dominated Zell Miller voters.
Last night, another blogger, Bob Fertik at Democrats.com, put up a post announcing some "political dynamite" as "the collective efforts of progressive Internet activists reached a critical mass" and sent it over to MSNBC. The news? Two fringe candidates (David Cobb of the Green party and Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian party) were trying to raise $110,000 to pay for a recount in Ohio.
Are you detecting a pattern here?
Sure enough, old Keith bit and bit hard, leading his broadcast with a breathless update of the "voter fraud" story that he alone is now "covering" - and featuring the news that Cobb and Badnarik were raising money on their web sites (hint, hint) to pay for a recount.
For quite some time Olbermann has had the luxury of getting away with using his show to monger rumors of the web because no one watches his show (he gets about a .7 rating, or slighly better than the now cancelled McEnroe show on CNBC). But word is starting to get around that Olbermann is embracing the lunatic fringe, apparently determined to take the reputation of NBC News down with him.
Ann Coulter recently ripped Olbermann on the Florida Panhandle mystery - "...I guess we can add "math" to Keith's growing "I Don't Do" file, along with "Reading the Congressional Almanac," "Basic Show Prep," "Getting My Attitude in Line With My IQ"
The New York Times, hardly a bastion of the GOP, traced the origin of Olbermann's panhandle story in an article entitled "Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried"
Dean Esmay of Dean's World notes that John Gibson has come pretty close to accusing Olbermann of fanning terrorism in Iraq.
Kevin Aylward at Wizbang blog points to Johnny Dollar's Place where another blogger traces the origin of another Olbermann reported baked fresh in the blogosphere. JDP even has the video of The Factor - Goldberg debate that Olbermann twisted as a pretext for slamming Bill O'Reilly.
Henry Hanks at Crooow Blog finds nothing new in Olbermann creating a pretext to slam O'Reilly.
Tom Biro at The Media Drop is wondering whether KO-Gate spells a big problem for Olbermann and MSNBC.
Brian Stelter reports that Keith Olbermann is working the "voting fraud" issue hard. He is getting thousands of e-mails a day. He got 4,600 just yesterday, most generated by the blackbox-nutcase wing of the Democratic party.
At this rate, given anemic ratings, Olbermann is well on his way to be the first cable news talk show host to have more incoming e-mails then viewers!
JENNINGS: We've been a little bit surprised by how many e-mails we've had suggesting that maybe once again the country got it wrong. Now, we're not particularly disposed to conspiracy theories. As you know, Mr. Bush won by a comfortable margin of more than three million votes. We did think it might be a public service -- and, quite frankly, cut back on the e-mails -- if our ballot-watch correspondent Jake Tapper took another look.
NOTE: This is not a satire...Jennings actually said this on the air.
Henry also offers up this from MRC: Olbermann Rues News Blackout...