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Removing any doubt as to the source of the recent spate of "inside sources" stories condemning Olbermann and his on air antics from within NBC News, Tom Brokaw goes on the record in a wide ranging piece by Peter Boyer in The New Yorker: One Angry Man, Is Keith Olbermann changing TV news?
The New Yorker piece is a must read for any Olbermann Watcher. There is so much to choose from in breaking down this piece it is hard to know where to begin. Page Six focused on Keith's revelation of yet another ailment: Wittmaack-Ekbom's syndrome, also known as 'restless legs syndrome'. Newsbusters and The New York Times focused on the news that Keith was seriously considered for Dan Rather's anchor chair (twice) by CBS News, a new tidbit which might go a long way towards explaining Keith's animosity towards America's Sweetheart, Katie Couric. Gawker focused on Keith's jimmy legs. TalkLeft calls the article damning and focused on how Olbermann's boss, Phil Griffin, tried to get Keith to tamp down the anti-Hillary rhetoric to no avail (while publicly denying there was any such Hillary bashing at MSNBC>. OpEdNews calls the article a hit piece which emphasizes how Boyer portrays Olbermann as mentally ill.
A throw-away line from Olbermann may well go unnoticed in an article chocked full of so much new information on Olbermann - this is arguably the most comprehensive and probing profile of Olbermann since Countdown first aired. Take a good hard look folks:
There are people who are absolutely certain that Charlie Gibson sleeps with Hillary Clinton, based on the last debate
In context, Keith is explaining how tin foil hatters think. He rattles of three examples, this being the last one. Given Keith's long history of misogyny and the problems with MSNBC, including Keith, making misogynistic cracks about Hillary Clinton, one can only wonder if the same liberal media that would absolutely excoriate a conservative for a tiny fraction of what's gone at MSNBC will take notice that Keith's third example has President Clinton's wife have sex with a news anchor.
But for my money the most important threat of this piece is the way Boyer weaves in some recent quotes from Russert and Brokaw with some of the behind the curtain sniping at Olbermann and the on-air criticisms of Brokaw aimed at, in whole or part, Keith. My read is that Brokaw is THE SOURCE for the "KO KO" campaign coming from within NBC News.
The television gossip pages occasionally report grumblings of some NBC News personalities about Olbermann's dominion at MSNBC, but most, even the traditionalists, seem happy for the airtime, and glad that Olbermann's success redounds to them. As Olbermann puts it, "A rising tide lifts all boats."
Boyers then notes:
MSNBC's election coverage is, by default, the political coverage of NBC News. Throughout the protracted Democratic-primary season, after the twenty-two-minute "Nightly News" broadcast went off the air on a big night, NBC's coverage--and its news stars--moved across the studio to MSNBC, where coverage was co-anchored by a broadcaster who makes his personal perspective plainly known. The risk for NBC News is that this commingling has colored the NBC News brand, so carefully burnished over the generations, with the attitudes and predilections of the cable arm.
So why did so many well-respected journalists at NBC News prostitute themselves by sharing air time with Olbermann? Apparently the "Obama Effect" has effected NBC News in ways that not even its harshest critics fully understood:
When the late Tim Russert, the Washington bureau chief of NBC News, realized last year that the Democratic Presidential nominating process might become a once-in-a-lifetime political story, he volunteered to become a regular contributor to MSNBC's broadcasts. Other NBC News stars, such as Brian Williams, the White House correspondent David Gregory, and the chief foreign-affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, followed Russert's path.
Within this narrative we get Brokaw slamming Keith.
"Listen, it's a strain," says Tom Brokaw, the longtime anchor of "Nightly News," who remains an active and revered figure at NBC. "And it's under constant examination. There's dialogue going on behind the scenes all the time. It's not perfectly sorted out."
Brokaw calls this moment in the news media "the second big bang." "We are creating a new universe, and it has all kinds of new laws and science and physics coming into play as well, in this information world," he told me. "And you've got planets out there colliding with each other, new life forms taking shape; others have drifted too close to the sun, and they've burned up. And we don't know how it's all going to settle down. And it has, now and forevermore, a radiant effect."
Is Brokaw saying Keith has "drifted to close to the sun"? Sure sounds like it. And that Keith has "burned up"? Yup.
Boyers then brings us back to January of this year when Brokaw first went public with his criticism of the new direction of NBC News brought forth by Phil Griffin, Steve Capus and their boy Keith.
The entire MSNBC team, transported by Obama's victory in Iowa a week earlier, plainly anticipated an Obama win (as did much of the rest of the press), a view that was only scarcely contained on the air, while the polls were still open. Clinton, of course, won New Hampshire, which prompted a gentle on-air warning from Tom Brokaw to his colleagues to stay out of "the business of making judgments before the polls have closed and trying to stampede, in effect, the process." He added, "I think that the people out there are going to begin to make some judgments about us, if they haven't already, if we don't begin to temper that temptation to constantly try to get ahead of what the voters are deciding."
Brokaw says he sometimes feels that he has been cast in the role of hall monitor at NBC News; if so, his charges have kept him busy. The day after the New Hampshire primary, Matthews asserted that Hillary Clinton owed her election as senator to public sympathy for her in light of her husband's sexual peccadilloes. "It was completely out of line," Brokaw says. "And Keith took it to another level" with his "shut the hell up" commentary.
You might want to read that one back slowly. If Brokaw is the hall monitor what does that make Keith? The unruly student? A disciplinary case? If Matthews attack on Hillary was COMPLETELY "out of line" but Keith's "shut the hell up" special comment was far worse what is Brokaw saying about Keith? KO "took IT". Took What? Took "Going COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE" to ANOTHER LEVEL. How bad is that? Pretty bad.
But Brokaw was not done:
Toward the end of the primary season, with Montana and South Dakota going for Obama and Clinton, respectively, on June 3rd, Olbermann earned another on-air scolding from Brokaw after asserting that Clinton was "trying to shoehorn her way" into the coverage of the presumed nominees of the two parties. "I think that's unfair, Keith," Brokaw said. "When you look at the states that she won and the popular vote that she piled up, and the number of delegates that she has on her side, she's got real bargaining power in all of this."
Brokaw is pretty clear in that he is disgusted with Keith which leaves him on the other side of the fence from Kaplan, Capus and Griffin. But even Keith's supporters can't seem to get clear on Olbermann's impact on the reputation of NBC News.
As we have noted many times before (much to the dismay of Olbypologists), Keith's show was meant to be the "newscast of record" at MSNBC with Keith as lead anchor for the network.
When "Countdown" was still new, in 2004, Rick Kaplan, then the president of MSNBC, told Olbermann that he wanted the program to be the cable network's "newscast of record."
His new bosses have a different view:
Capus and Griffin insist that Olbermann's broadcast is like an opinion section in a newspaper, suitable to what they call MSNBC's "cable sensibility."
But Olbermann is still operating on the Kaplan model:
Olbermann differs. He begins each "Countdown" with the Beethoven theme from NBC's "Huntley-Brinkley Report," and concludes with Murrow's signature sign-off, "Good night, and good luck." He maintains that "Countdown" is very much part of that continuum. "It is a newscast with commentary and analysis, the way most really good newscasts used to be," he says.
This question - whether Countdown is a newscast or an opinion show - goes to the heart of the problem Olbermann presents to NBC News. That they even pretend to grapple with that questions says a lot. But so long as Olbermann is out there pretending he is a journalist doing a newscast - and being enabled in doing so by NBC - and so long as Keith Olbermann is MSNBC and thus by extension NBC News - and so long as MSNBC Is the public face of NBC News political coverage - the NBC News brand will be associated with Keith Olbermann, a man who lays claims to a storied news tradition with theme songs and pilfered sign-offs while confusing childish antics with speaking truth to power, who equates propaganda with journalism, and who confuses the adulation of far-left fringe groups to respect from his peers in the broadcast news industry.
Keith is a disgrace. It's about time Tom Brokaw stood up and said so.
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