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MSNBC staffers in the Secaucus newsroom-studio watched in horror Monday night as the volatile Kaplan, the president of the cable outlet, publicly laced into the eccentric Olbermann, anchor of the 8 p.m. show "Countdown," after the latter eulogized lung-cancer victim Peter Jennings with a graphic rant about his own cancer scare.
As Monday's Countdown progressed, with a serious, detailed look at the life of Peter Jennings, we were thinking: this is good enough that we are going to have to praise Olby for once. Even though he had to spend an entire program block to cross-promote an interview with the Jackson jurors coming up next hour.
But Olby is still Olby, and like Old Faithful, he never disappoints. He just can't resist giving Bill O'Reilly free publicity (like Mr Bill needs it--in July he had more than 7 times as many viewers as the Countdown to Oblivion). What was KO all worked up over? Before we tell you why Olby named Mr O "the worst person in the world", let's go to the transcript to see exactly what transpired on The Factor:
From The O'Reilly Factor, July 26 2005:
O'REILLY: You met with Vice President Cheney. Cheney doesn't want any restrictions on the detainee interrogations. OK? And he's adamant about it.
MCCAIN: I don't think he does. I think he sincerely believes that they're being treated in a humane fashion. I don't think that the president wants to do anything that would be in violation of a number of international agreements.
O'REILLY: But didn't he try to convince you, according to all the papers, he tried to convince you and some other Republican Senators not to put these things down in writing in the Army manual to give the president the flexibility to interrogate as he sees fit?
MCCAIN: I think that he felt--and he'd have to speak for himself, but I think he felt that it was not necessary for the Congress to act. And obviously, that happens a lot of times in tensions between the executive and legislative branch.
O'REILLY: But do you want Congress to actually tell the president of the United States what he can do as far as interrogating terror suspects?
MCCAIN: I want us to abide by the international agreements we've made in concerning human rights and against torture. And I also want to codify what has been used in the past wars, and that is the Army field manual, which sets out specifics as far as interrogation tactics.
O'REILLY: But isn't this a different situation? I mean, what if somebody had knowledge of a nuclear device going off? I mean, I think you'd have to do anything you can, right?
MCCAIN: Then--absolutely. And then the president of the United States should make the decision that we could no longer adhere to the international agreements that we are signatories to.
Don't think that you get anything out of torture, Bill, because you don't. And I know that for a fact. And the other thing is that when people see pictures of Abu Ghraib around the world and in Arab countries, that it hurts us enormously.
O'REILLY: Terrible. Absolutely. I agree with you.
MCCAIN: And one of the reasons why those people in that prison acted the way they did, they did not have specific guidelines as to how to act. That was one of the problems.
O'REILLY: I'll agree with you. I'll agree with you there. But I think that coerced interrogation, the Bagram guys tell me it works. It's just a matter of degree.
Now what exactly about this exchange did Olby consider so heinous that it deserved singling out O'Reilly as the worst person in the world? Only one person can answer that question:
OLBERMANN: Honestly we should just retire the award to him. But this is for explaining the usefulness and appropriateness of torture to his on-air guest Sen John McCain, who spent five years as a POW in North VietNam. If this were 1972, Bill O'Reilly would be Jane Fonda. For now, he's merely today's Worst Person in the World.
Is that a fair description of the interview? (For that matter, are any of Olby's shots at Fox News ever true or accurate?) We report, you decide.