NBC Olbermann Saga Far From Over

Howard Kurtz makes a Herculean effort in The Daily Beast today paint Keith Olbermann as a narcissistic leftist running amok of the otherwise neutral and vestal news-folk at NBC/MSNBC.

From the moment Olbermann was found to have donated money to three Democratic candidates, there has been a deepening sense of anger and frustration among his colleagues, according to interviews with eight knowledgeable sources. These sources, who declined to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the situation, say that several of NBC’s front-line stars, including Tom Brokaw, have expressed concern to management that Olbermann has badly damaged MSNBC’s reputation for independence.  (NBC and MSNBC executives declined to comment, and Olbermann declined to be interviewed.)

Network staffers use phrases like “scorched-earth policy” and “totally narcissistic response” to describe how Olbermann has dealt with criticism of his political donations. A recurring theme is that he has made it impossible for MSNBC to argue that it is journalistically different from Fox News, which has no prohibition against political donations by such commentators and talk-show hosts as Sean Hannity and Karl Rove. The word hypocrisy has frequently been aimed at Olbermann.

This piece was clearly informed by those who are detractors of Olbermann. Nowhere in the article does Kurtz even attempt to paint Keith’s side of the story and from the looks of it any attempts by him to deliver a rebuttal/clarification will likely be met with his permanent dismissal.

It is entirely possible that the anger will subside and the former sportscaster will reclaim his cleanup spot, as the leader of a liberal lineup. But NBC executives say that the cable channel is far better positioned to withstand an Olbermann departure than it might have been a year ago. Rachel Maddow has emerged as a genuine star, Ed Schultz is gaining momentum, Chris Matthews has been energized by the midterm campaign, and Lawrence O’Donnell has successfully launched a new show in the 10 p.m. hour previously reserved for Countdown reruns.

For what it’s worth, this looks like a unfair one-sided hit piece against Olbermann who is being backed into a corner and told to sit down and shut up. I have to wonder if I were put into a similar situation how long it would be before I was speaking to my lawyers.

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