It's Time to K.O. K.O.

When Keith Olbermann used a poorly sourced, phonied-up quote to slam Bill O'Reilly, he was not exactly sailing in uncharted waters.

Keith Olbermann’s descent into madness continues as his ratings decline. We posted on Monday about KO’s arrogant potshot at Bill O’Reilly, based on an unsourced, inaccurate quote published on an internet blog. We can now report that Mr Humility has in fact been notified that his on-air tantrum was based on an erroneous source but is so far refusing to issue a correction or retraction of his snide comments. As for an apology to O’Reilly...don’t hold your breath.

You may recall that not long ago Keith lifted a post from a satirical internet site and reported it as a legitimate news story. In that case he was convinced to issue a retraction and on-air apology. Lately KO’s newfound fascination has been the voting “irregularities” he breathlessly reports each night as if he had stumbled across the greatest unsolved mystery since who killed Laura Palmer.

While Mr Humility blogs that his scoop is this close to breaking out in the rest of the media, the latter are by and large treating Olbermann’s obsession with scorn. Wired is singularly unimpressed, the Yale Free Press published the numbers that Keith overlooked, and of course bloggers are giving him the horse laugh. (CNN discounted the claims, as did ABC News.)

Olbermann’s debacles, a result of his all-too-hip, shoot-from-the-lip style, aren’t just limited to pilfering hoaxes and conspiracy theories from the internet. We know that KO broadcast a video clip of Dick Cheney in a way that would have made Maureen Dowd proud, altering the Veep’s meaning with some slight of hand editing. That’s hardly a surprise, since this impartial newsman has made it a point to tell his viewers, Hey, I didn’t vote for the guy.

KO’s plunge into irrationality is what happens when you rely on email chain letters and left-wing bloggers for your “research”. Most people know spam when they see it, but to Olbermann these kook emails are actually “news tips”! Why bother with transcripts when you can base your news segments on left-wing blogs and spam? It has gotten to the point that KO was so eager to get his “investigative reports” on the air that he couldn’t even bother to look up the historical voting trends for Florida in the Congressional Almanac.

And guess where KO reeled in his doctored-up O’Reilly quotation? Did the transcript come from Fox News? Did he fact-check his story on Lexis/Nexis? Did he run a video clip? Hey dude, I'm KO--I’m too cool for all that! His source was TVNewser--a college student blogger who bollixed up the quote in the first place. It’s unclear where TVN got the info, since his item is unsourced. But this fits Olbermann’s pattern of relying on questionable internet sources for stories and not bothering to do even the most basic fact-checking before putting his tall tales on the air. KO is making Dan Rather look like Edward R Murrow.

We wonder if Mr Humility is aware that TVNewser’s reporting has not always been accurate or impartial. Just recently we were amazed to find a different O’Reilly quote on TVN erroneously sourced from “Johnny Dollar”. There was never any such post on this site, and we never sent it to him. The point is that Olbermann is relying on transcripts lifted from a blogger who reports transcripts from other bloggers but does not always cite their origins accurately. This counts as a news source? For all we know that quote is no more creditable than the one KO fell for on Monday. [The Croooow Blog reports that they were the source for the earlier O'Reilly quote falsely attributed to J$.]

Just as TVNewser ignored our inquiry about his naming “Johnny Dollar” as a source for the one quote, TVN is ignoring our request for a correction of the O’Reilly ratings quote KO lifted, despite TVN having been provided an accurate transcript. (We have posted an mp3 file and a quicktime video clip as well.)

There is more cause for concern. Wednesday night, as the news of Arafat’s death spread on the cable networks, we turned to TVNewser to check his coverage notes. From 10:55 pm to 11:30 pm, no posts appeared on this breaking story and TVN's IM line showed him as "away". Yet now there are multiple entries on the subject, including one dated Wednesday night at 11:15 pm! Did TVN alter time stamps to make it appear he working a breaking story in real time rather than sleeping? We can't say, but that’s not too great a leap from inexact quotes and bogus attributions. And this is Olbermann’s big source for attacking O’Reilly!

Keith Olbermann would do well to remember that "a good reporter may encounter a tip, or two, or five, in a day’s time. He has to check them all out before publishing or reporting.” That ought to come easy for KO since these are his words. And that quote wasn't manufactured to feed the paranoid delusions of left-wing nut jobs. It may be time for someone at MSNBC to remind KO that Countdown is not The Daily Show, or offer Olbermann to the Comedy Channel for two broken bats and a real journalist to be named later.

posted: Thu - November 11, 2004 at 06:52 PM       j$p  send 

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Title: When Partisanship Becomes Deadly
Excerpt: I admit that I don't rely much on television for news anymore. When I do I try to avoid overtly partisan hacks like Sean Hannity or Paul Begala. When I do I laugh at such people, or just grunt in disgust and turn them off.
Blog name: Dean's World
November 12, 2004, 8:48:02 AM EST – Like

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Title: Olbermann's votes and quotes
Excerpt: Television-Cable's Talking Heads
Blog name: The Media Drop
November 12, 2004, 9:16:50 AM EST – Like

Joann Knight
I'm coming here today via a link from Free Republic. 
I wanted to let you know that I, too, wrote to both Brian (TV Newser) and to Keith Olbermann about Olbermann's erroneous reference to O'Reilly's remarks regarding the Wed. Nov. 3 cable news ratings. I thought Brian would at least retract his version of Olbermann's comments from the TVNewser website, and was hoping that Olbermann would apologize, but no such luck. 
Brian published the original ratings, Olbermann misinterpreted them and reported them incorrectly, and then Brian picks up on Olbermann's comments, implying that O'Reilly was the idiot. Brian should have contacted Olbermann and told him of his mistake. And both owed O'Reilly an apology. But neither guy was big enough to make such a gesture.
At least not that many people watch MSNBC, so hopefully just a few people heard the erroneous statement made by Olbermann. I guess O'Reilly was right about Olbermann's arrogance.
November 13, 2004, 5:06:32 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Thank you for your comments. Why people can't admit when they made a mistake and fess up is beyond me. Don't they ever learn, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up! Thanks again.
November 13, 2004, 7:14:10 PM EST – Like – Reply

Leroy J. Blige
I wish you would stop using monospace fonts for your articles, Johnny. Just use the regular font you have for your first graf.
November 14, 2004, 4:34:37 AM EST – Like – Reply

Reverting to old schoolyard stratagems:
Obermann will apologize when O'Reilly does. To make it even easier, O'Reilly needs pick only one amongst his many tantrums/indiscretions/moments of hubris.
November 16, 2004, 5:12:40 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Why should O'Reilly apologize to Olbermann? I don't recall Mr Bill ever even mentioning Olbermann's name on the air. And he certainly didn't lie about the ratings like KO did.
November 16, 2004, 5:23:43 PM EST – Like – Reply

Who said anything about O'Reilly apologizing to Obermann or vice-versa? I'd like both to apologize to the populace.
November 16, 2004, 8:21:28 PM EST – Like – Reply