Keith Olbermann, we know you aren’t a plagiarist: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12: Tonight’s “Countdown” was most notable for what wasn’t said: Keith bragged about having canceled a segment on the supposed plagiarism in George W. Bush’s new book. “Only when I saw the actual books just before air tonight was it evident that a lot of these so-called similarities appear only when some very selective editing is done, either in Bush‘s book or the other ones. So the segment is dead.”

Bravo, Keith! You did a tiny bit of due diligence “just before air tonight,” and made a decision. It was truly noble of you to mention this astonishing act both on air and on Twitter. Likewise, I have canceled a paragraph about how you single-handedly caused the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the eruption of Mt. St. Helen and SARS. My writers prepared it for me (ha), but when I really looked into it three minutes before sending this piece to my editor, I couldn’t quite substantiate it. But I’d still like to take the time to mention my decision here for the purposes of pointing out what a good person I am. Can I have a cookie?

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15: Keith bragged about cutting the Bush section yet again tonight, in a Special Comment blasting back at Ted Koppel for an oped in the Washington Post that lamented cable news partisanship. Koppel wrote that Olbermann is “avowedly, unabashedly and monotonously partisan,” and compared him (and Rachel Maddow and Bill O’Reilly and others) unfavorably to Walter Cronkite and Olbermann’s hero, Edward R. Murrow. Olbermann’s Comment railed against the “false god of objectivity,” and made the case that Cronkite’s and Murrow’s best moments came when they “correctly and fearlessly threw off those shackles and said what was true and not merely what was factual.”

This is an old argument about the purpose of the news, but it must be pointed out that Edward R. Murrow, to my knowledge, did not ever giggle while a guest accused a rival anchor of “playing with his poop,” as Olbermann would do on Tuesday’s show. And Cronkite never called anyone a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it,” as Olbermann notoriously did to Michelle Malkin last year. So it’s all well and good to have a conversation about objectivity and whether it can exist — one good place for that is in a freshman philosophy class, but a national news show will also work — but I hope Olbermann isn’t fooling anyone with this. If there’s any problem with “false equivalency” these days, it’s Olbermann’s own suggestion that he’s more equivalent to Murrow than O’Reilly.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16: Tonight, Olbermann presented a “how-to blueprint for what the president can do without Congress,” encouraging President Obama to churn out as many executive orders as he can, bypassing that pesky legislative branch. I wonder what has changed since 2007, when Olbermann scorned one of Bush’s orders as “magic words” and ran a whole segment exposing executive orders as an evil power grab? In that old segment, which you can watch on YouTube, John Dean speculated hysterically that if, for example, a French drug firm came up with a cure for AIDS, the president could block its sale in the U.S. with an executive order, which he would totally do because he hates sex. Executive orders sound terrible! Except when they’re doing properly Democratic stuff, of course.

The “highlight” of the show was an interview with Bill Maher, a true meeting of the smugs. When I first watched, I could have sworn that Maher and Olbermann just exchanged over-confident smirks for four or five minutes, without speaking a single word between them. But upon closer examination, it appears they rambled on for awhile about Christine O’Donnell while tut-tutting the rest of the media over paying so much attention to her. You remember Christine O’Donnell: She was the subject of almost nightly attention on “Countdown” during the campaign, and Maher was the one that kicked off the witch obsession by dragging out some old tapes of her on his show. Well done, gentlemen.

The segment wasn’t without its laughs, however. At one point Keith actually said, “I’m not fishing for either compliments or reassurance here.” Ha! Pretty rich coming from the Kevin Van Dam of fishing for compliments. (Note: Kevin Van Dam is a famous professional fisherman whose name I found by googling the words “famous professional fisherman.”)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17: Recently, George Soros said something vague. Here is what he said: “if this president can’t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.” Are you titillated yet? If you are Keith Olbermann, you are planning to devote two full segments of your show to this bombshell.

And where, pray tell, did Soros make this earth-shattering statement? In a “closed-door meeting of big-money Democratic donors.” You know, the kind that, when Republicans throw them, Keith views as an Affront to Liberty.

Then, with some fanfare, Olbermann brought back the “Worst Persons in the World” segment, a few weeks after shuttering it indefinitely “with an eye towards discontinuing it,” and after putting it up to an online vote. The people have spoken. So much for changing the tone. Oh, well, the important thing is that you didn’t try.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18: Tonight, in a rant about Roger Ailes, Olbermann called the Daily Beast a “gossip website” for at the least the second time this week, and riffed on Ailes’s lengthy interview with Howard Kurtz without giving Kurtz the courtesy of naming him. Funnily enough, he also scolded Ailes for knowing nothing about journalism, when attribution is a journalism basic. Maybe Keith and Roger Ailes could take a class together!

Oh, well, neglecting Kurtz must have been a simple oversight. It couldn’t possibly have been cheap revenge for Kurtz’s devastating story last weekend in which he revealed, among other things, that Olbermann is considered a “royal pain” at MSNBC, and he forces his staff to leave notes outside his door rather that simply speaking to him. Could it?