WTF is Going On at MSNBC? Recent Hires Have a Distinctly Fox News Flavor

Three months into Donald Trump’s administration there is more cause than ever for critical analysis of Washington politics. But much of the press is having trouble countering Trump’s “Reality TV” dramatization of news. They attempt to achieve a false balance by presenting opposing views, even if one side is truthful and the other is lying.

Rachel Maddow

Having a president who’s suspected of colluding with Russians to steal an election is hardly the time to go soft. It is not the time to appease those in power or pander to wingnuts who will never tune in anyway. Yet that’s exactly the direction that MSNBC appears to heading.

In recent weeks they have hired or promoted some decidedly right-wing personalities. Former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren now has her own show on MSNBC. Former communications director for George W, Bush, Nicolle Wallace, also just premiered a new program. Likewise conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt. This week MSNBC announced that it has hired old-school conservative George Will away from Fox News.

These roster changes are especially puzzling at this time. MSNBC has built a brand that appeals to a more progressive audience. Despite having a former Republican anchoring three hours in the morning (Joe Scarborough), and a generally straight news profile during the day, their prime time lineup leans openly to the left. Chis Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Laurence O’Donnell are not shy about expressing their liberal opinions.

More importantly, that programming slant has paid off handsomely for MSNBC. They are enjoying their highest ratings in years. Maddow is actually beating her competition on Fox News in the key advertising demographic of 25-54 year olds. Not too long ago Fox News was considered unbeatable. But now Adweek’s TVNewser reports that:

“The network also continues to post more year-over-year prime time audience growth than both Fox News and CNN: +82 percent in total viewers and +61 percent in the prime time demo versus April 2016.”

It’s a surprising and inspiring success story. Any network would be turning cartwheels and striving to replicate that success across its dayparts. So why is MSNBC going out of their way to bolster a winning lineup with right-wing losers? None of the new “talent” has demonstrated any appeal to MSNBC’s audience. Van Susteren, in fact, is an obvious hole in the schedule, dipping noticeably between her lead-in and lead-out. And the viewers that might be interested in these new faces are genetically averse to ever tuning in to the radical socialists at MSNBC. Why should they when they can get all the wingnuttery they desire on Fox News? And if it’s caterwauling debates that they want, CNN already has the market cornered on that.

There is no shortage of liberals who could be brought into the MSNBC family. Joy Reid already has a Saturday morning show that gets more viewers than many weekday shows on CNN and Fox. They could have moved her into the time slot they gave to Van Susteren or Wallace. Even Keith Olbermann was in talks to return to MSNBC. His last stint with the network was the last time they challenged Fox. But according to Olbermann, they told him he would have to refrain from his “fiery” commentaries. That was an untenable restraint, so he walked.

It’s hard to know what the suits at MSNBC are thinking. There is clearly an appetite for news commentary that counters the powerful elite in Washington. It’s a programming niche that is unfilled elsewhere. Plus, it’s a necessary defense against the dangerously erratic Trump administration’s assault on America. Where else can we go to get reality-based news about climate change? Who else is covering voter suppression and gerrymandering? Which other network is allotting time to racial and gender discrimination? And what about our President’s potentially treasonous connections to unsavory figures in Russia?

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Fox News deliberately downplays any unflattering news about Trump. CNN reports it, but puts on crackpots who disseminate absurd justifications. That leaves MSNBC as the one network that honestly covers Trump’s dark side. For that reason alone they should not be adding to the pro-Trump voices in the media. We already have plenty of that and far too little truthful common sense and compassion.

UPDATE: There are rumors that MSNBC may not renew the contract of Lawrence O’Donnell despite the fact that his ratings are at a record high. He is beating CNN, and challenging Fox News. This would be good time to let MSNBC know that we demand they keep O’Donnell and stop sucking up to the right. You can call them at 212-664-4444 and email them at letters@msnbc.com.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Just Beat Fox News and Every Other Primetime Program On TV

For several weeks now Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program has been picking up steam. Last Monday she rose into the ratings top ten in her time period. And that momentum continued for the rest of the week. As a result, she just snagged a victory over every primetime program for the week of March 6-10.

Rachel Maddow Donald Trump

The Hollywood Reporter noted the achievement saying that:

“Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s star player, is enjoying one hell of a ratings run right now.

“The cable news network’s 9 o’clock host outrated every other primetime show during the week of March 6. Not only did that make her show No. 1 among adults 25-54 in her time slot with an average 624,000 viewers, she even beat cable news’ perennial victor — Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly.”

A showing this strong is evidence of a titanic shift in the television audience. Bill O’Reilly has been the cable news king of the hill fairly consistently for years. He hasn’t seen any real competition since Keith Olbermann. In her time period, Maddow’s weekly average crushed her direct competition, Fox’s newest primetime host Tucker Carlson. And her victory included both total audience and the key advertising demographic of viewers 25-54. The smug superiority of Carlson was quickly embraced by Fox’s viewers. However, his bewildered and annoyed shtick seems to be wearing thin.

Maddow’s rise has occurred simultaneously with Donald Trump’s collapse. Trump’s approval ratings started in the cellar with the lowest numbers ever recorded for a new president. And they have just gone down from there. This week alone he sunk five points to a pitiful 39 percent.

Consequently, Fox News is pulling out all the stops to prop up their propaganda. Sean Hannity blasted Maddow on Monday for daring to report on Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia. Ordinarily Hannity wouldn’t bother to speak her name aloud. But now he is featuring her in his rants. First he complained that she didn’t have “a shred of evidence” tying Trump to Putin. That’s true. She doesn’t have a shred, she has truck load. Then Hannity asked the most blitheringly ironic question ever: “Do these people have any intellectual honesty?” No comment on that is necessary.

As for Carlson, he just announced that he will be interviewing Trump on Wednesday. Given Trump’s toxic presence, that might not be a great programming move. Fox’s glassy-eyed loyalists will love it, but the broader TV audience will likely stay away. What could they possibly learn from television’s most sycophantic Trump fluffer spending an hour with his idol?

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

That’s a problem that Fox News is going to have to contend with for the foreseeable future. Their star attraction is viewed by most Americans as an ignorant bigot who is intent on taking away their healthcare. During the campaign Trump was still a novelty and many people watched just to see if he would burst a blood vessel in his neck or slap an immigrant child. But the public knows Trump now and they’ve lost interest in his juvenile antics. And the more he is paraded out on Fox News, the better it will be for Maddow and MSNBC. Maybe CNN should start paying attention.

He’s Baaaaack: Keith Olbermann Returns With Devastating Smack Down Of Donald Trump

This campaign season has been notably missing something that in the past has made tolerating electoral absurdities a bit easier. There are fewer of the strong voices on the left that are capable of encapsulating the outrage many Americans feel. Conservatives have Fox News and talk radio to comfort themselves with the factless pablum they crave. But for reality-based liberals the pickings are scarce. MSNBC has taken a turn to the center, and CNN seems to be striving to emulate Fox.

Olbermann

Consequently, the return of Keith Olbermann to the world of pundits is welcome and long overdue. GQ just announced that Olbermann will be assuming the role of Special Correspondent. In that capacity he will present regular videos addressing the state of the campaign and, in particular, taking on Donald Trump. The first in the series is an epic production that tallies up “176 Reasons Donald Trump Shouldn’t Be President.” In the opening Olbermann sets the stage for his righteous renunciation of Trump:

Every few generations, we Americans are called upon to defend our country. To defend it not so much from foreign dictators or war or terrorism, but from those here who have no commitment to progress or democracy or representative government—no commitment to anything except their own out-of-control minds and the bottomless pits of their egos.

Our society has thrown up these people before: Joseph McCarthy. George Wallace. Father Coughlin. Jefferson Davis. Aaron Burr. The Know-Nothings. The Blacklisters. The America-Firsters. And we have always thrown them out.

And now our generation has its own: the most dangerous individual ever nominated by a major party for the highest office in this country.

His base wants few details and fewer facts; they just want to burn it down and blame their failures on the collective other. And Donald John Trump is their demonic messiah in Oompa Loompa’s clothing.

We must stop him.

That’s a great start. What follows is an extensively researched panoply of Donald Trump’s ignorant and bigoted pronouncements of the past fifteen months. Any one of these outrageous Trumpisms might have ended the career of any other politician in the past. Combined they represent a whole that Olbermann calls a horrifying. For example, Olbermann lambastes Republicans for having nominated for president a man who…

“…attacked President Obama and implied he was a traitor. Who attacked him as having been complicit in the Orlando terrorist attack. Who attacked him for having lower approval ratings than Vladimir Putin, as if Putin’s could be trusted. Who attacked him as being born in another country. Who attacked him as the founder of ISIS, then said it was sarcasm, then said it wasn’t sarcasm, then attacked him again as the founder of ISIS.

And…

“…attacked Mexicans as rapists, bringing drugs and crime; who attacked African-Americans and claimed they were all living in poverty with no jobs and schools that were no good; who attacked Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as a “war zone” and attacked the United States of America and claimed it is in a ‘death spiral.'”

And…

“…lied about thousands of Syrian refugee terrorists being secretly admitted to this country; who lied about the Chicago police urging him to cancel a rally; who lied about the Chicago police saying they could solve crime there with ‘tough police tactics’; who lied about how there was no drought in California, how he never said Japan should have nuclear weapons, how he opposed the ouster of Egyptian president Mubarak, how the unemployment rate is 42 percent.”

And that doesn’t even begin to cover it. Olbermann continues with dozens more examples of Trump’s unfitness for office. It’s a litany of shame, corruption, dishonesty, and hate. Watch the video below to get the full effect. And bookmark this link for the transcript. If this is representative of the quality of work Olbermann is going to put into this new project, he will be making a critical contribution to election coverage and analysis. Thanks Keith, and welcome back.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

The Creeping Fox News Contagion: MSNBC’s New Executive In Charge Of Morning Joe

Taking another leap toward the dark side, MSNBC announced today that they have hired Kevin Magee to serve as executive in charge of Morning Joe, the three hour block of programming hosted by former Republican representative Joe Scarborough. Magee is a former executive vice-president at Fox News.

Morning Joe Scarborough

The immediate ramifications of this staff change will not be particularly earth shattering. The program is already a bastion of right-wing propaganda with predominantly conservative punditry. However it does represent a congealing of the Fox Effect on the mainstream media. It is an advance of the virus emanating from Fox to infect other networks with their deliberately deceitful approach to journalism.

Morning Joe already has a weakened immune system. Last year they added Amy Holmes to their roster of contributors. Holmes is also the anchor of Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze Internet Video program. Scarborough himself is hopelessly biased and nearly oblivious to the right-wing dominance of the press. In November he went on an extended rant demanding his guests to name a single Republican on a nightly news program (they couldn’t, but I could). And Morning Joe is the MSNBC home of Donald Trump, who has become a regular fixture on the show – and nowhere else on the network.

One thing that this should put an end to is the talk that MSNBC is the liberal answer to Fox News. That has never been true, mainly because, while MSNBC was generally more progressive, it remained fact-based as opposed to the blatant lying that is the hallmark of Fox. More to the point, Fox News would never give a three hour block of airtime (soon to be expanding to four hours) to a liberal ex-congressman, but Scarborough not only has that, but is also featured on NBC’s Meet the Press. Just imagine if Fox & Friends was hosted by Anthony Weiner or if Sean Hannity were replaced by Rachel Maddow.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Since NBC/Universal was bought by Comcast, MSNBC has undergone some troubling changes. Comcast’s owners, the conservative Roberts family, insisted that there would be no substantive changes, but Ed Schultz, Joy Reid, and Alex Wagner lost their shows shortly after the acquisition. And now they are beginning to stuff the deck with right-wing pundits and producers. This cannot possibly lead to anything positive for the network. If they were smart they would recall that when Keith Olbermann was on in primetime, his show regularly challenged, and occasionally beat, Fox’s O’Reilly Factor. And Olbermann just happens to be available now.

Fox News Propagandist Caught And Arrested, Charged With Fraud

Wayne Simmons has been a frequent guest on Fox News for many years, providing what they said was expert analysis of intelligence and military issues from an experienced professional. Fox often relied on his commentary to inform their audience about serious national security issues as they arose in the news. But as it turns out, Simmons had lied on his resume to the federal government when seeking employment and contracts, and now he is under indictment for “major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government.”

Fox News

The FBI arrested Simmons and released a statement alleging his unlawful conduct, including misrepresenting his experience in the CIA and other intelligence services. From the FBI statement:

“According to the indictment, Simmons falsely claimed he worked as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1973 to 2000, and used that false claim in an attempt to obtain government security clearances and work as a defense contractor, including at one point successfully getting deployed overseas as an intelligence advisor to senior military personnel. According to the indictment, Simmons also falsely claimed on national security forms that his prior arrests and criminal convictions were directly related to his supposed intelligence work for the CIA, and that he had previously held a top secret security clearance. The indictment also alleges that Simmons defrauded an individual victim out of approximately $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.”

Simmons’ appearances on Fox News were fairly routine bits of rightist propaganda, exactly the sort of thing you would expect to see on Fox. In one of his most recent bookings he was on “Your World with Neil Cavuto” where they had this paranoid exchange:

Simmons: We’ve got at least nineteen paramilitary Muslim training facilities in the United States. Are you kidding me? What are they gonna do, go hunt deer during deer season? No! They’re using paramilitary exercises to plan and execute these type of operations all over the United States. And when it happens it’ll just be you and I saying “I told you so.”
Cavuto: Well, I hope you’re wrong my friend, but you’ve been uncannily prescient on a lot of this stuff.

Simmons went on to assert that…

“We are in a global war against an Islamic jihad. Until they get rid of these ‘no-go zones,’ you go out and put razor wire around them, turn off the water, and catalog them as they come out.”

Simmons probably loved the WWII Japanese interment camps, too. Of course, there weren’t any “no-go zones” in the U.S., but his remarks were delivered shortly after another Fox News “expert,” Ryan Mauro, had made similar false assertions about no-go zones on Bill O’Reilly’s show. Simmons even mentioned Mauro’s claims in his discussion with Cavuto. Those same claims were later cited by a domestic terrorist who was arrested for plotting an attack against a community of peaceful Muslim-Americans in upstate New York.

And while we’re on the subject of no-go zones, yet another Fox “expert,” Steve Emerson, charged that they were rampant in Paris. For that the network was forced to retract the claim and apologize. And all of it was hilariously skewered by a French TV program. However, they never retracted or apologized for the claims that nearly got a Muslim-American community massacred.

Other noteworthy appearances on Fox News saw Simmons referring to Obama’s election as “the coronation of the boy king;” claiming that the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 had to be a sophisticated state sponsored attack; calling the Obama administration the worst administration this county will ever have known; saying that the best thing that could happen for this administration and State Department is that we are attacked because it takes all of the decision making away from Obama.

Really? The “best” thing that could happen is for us to be attacked? Sadly, that’s not the only time a Fox News guest suggested that. But perhaps the most ironic appearance Simmons made was on the November 15, 2007, episode of The Big Story with John Gibson and Heather Nauert. The segment was about a CIA/FBI agent that had just been found guilty of fraud and deception. Simmons said that …

“This has exposed the raw nerve, if you will, of a flaw in the background check, and without a background check, without knowing who we’re hiring, and who we are employing to protect our nation, we are in big, big trouble.”

No kidding, Sherlock! How Simmons could have the gall to comment on that matter knowing what he knew about himself is mind-boggling. It is the behavior of a sociopath. Keith Olbermann called it right when he made Simmons the Worst Person in the World.” way back in 2006 for using a hoax to justify government spying on American citizens.

What’s frightening about the revelation that Fox News was relying on an impostor to provide analysis of national security is that the phony analysis he provided may have been exactly what Fox News intended. That’s because Simmons was identified as a participant in the Pentagon Military Analyst Program – an initiative developed during the Bush administration to dispatch retired officers, and other alleged experts, to the media in order to push their agendas in Iraq and elsewhere. The program was revealed in a Pulitzer prize-winning article by David Barstow for the New York Times. Barstow wrote that…

“To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.”

“Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.”

“The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

So Simmons was a covert asset in the Bush campaign to spread war propaganda. And he remained a Fox News regular long after Bush was gone. Now he’s been arrested as a fraud. In that regard he isn’t much different than anyone else at Fox News. Virtually their entire roster is engaged in the same partisan deception on behalf of an extremist right-wing agenda. They all tell the same lies and they all work hard to disinform the American people.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Now that one of their veteran liars has been caught, Fox News has not bothered to report on it at all. Which is not surprising. They surely don’t want people to know that one of their favorite commentators has been feeding them BS for years. Because once they do that, the rest of the dominoes will fall.

[Update:] Fox’s Bret Baier addressed the Simmons arrest on Special Report. In a thirty second segment he said…

“Government contractor and occasional Fox News guest Wayne Simmons has been charged with lying about his supposed career with the C.I.A. Prosecutors say Simmons broke the law by lying about his credentials on applications for consulting work. Simmons made appearances on Fox as a national security and terrorism expert. However, he was never employed by the channel and was never paid by Fox.”

Whether or not Simmons was on Fox’s payroll is irrelevant. He was a regular source of tainted information on serious subjects for which he pretended to be qualified. The glaring omission in Baier’s comment was that he did not apologize to viewers for repeatedly presenting a fraud on the air, nor did he officially retract anything that Simmons said. Baier seems to think the lack of a paycheck is absolution for engaging in disinformation. And it begs the question: If Fox wasn’t paying him, who was?

Keith Olbermann And Current TV Part Ways: Statements By Current And Olbermann

Current TV’s founders, Al Gore and Joel Hyat, have released a letter to viewers announcing that their relationship with Keith Olbermann has come to a end. This news will be regarded by some as a shock and others as an affirmation of Olbermann’s volatile personality. Either way it is bound to have an impact on the cable news marketplace as the dust settles.

Current has already secured a replacement for Olbermann in former New York governor Eliot Spitzer who will be hosting a new program called “Viewpoint” beginning today. The letter by Gore and Hyatt follows:

To the Viewers of Current:

We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.

Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.

We are moving ahead by honoring Current’s values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily — especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.

As we move toward this summer’s political conventions and the general election in the fall, Current is making significant new additions to our broadcasts. We have just debuted six hours of new programming each weekday with Bill Press (“Full Court Press, at 6 am ET/3 am PT) and Stephanie Miller (“Talking Liberally,” at 9 am ET/6 pm PT).

We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year. We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Governor Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.

All of these additions to Current’s lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal — the goal that has always been central to Current’s mission: To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voice is too seldom heard. We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.

Sincerely,

Al Gore & Joel Hyatt
Current’s Founders

Olbermann’s response indicates that there will be some animosity and litigiousness between the parties before this is over. Here is what Olbermann had to say via extended Twittering:

My full statement:

I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.

It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. http://nyti.ms/HueZsa

In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

I can’t begin to speculate as to what the core issues are that lead to this divorce, but there have been prior reports of tensions and Olbermann was frequently absent from the show for the past few months.

What this means for Current is unknown. Olbermann was an enormous force who put the network on the map when he signed up. But now the benefit of that have been realized and it is entirely possible that the remaining personalities can hold their own with viewers. The Young Turks have had their own loyal following since before Cenk Uyger’s promotion to television. And Spitzer and Jennifer Granholm, both ex-governors, have the inherent credibility and respect afforded to executive officeholders. In their new morning lineup Current recently debuted simulcasts of radio talkers Bill Press and Stephanie Miller. So even as Olbermann is fading out, the network is firming up.

In my view, Current’s biggest problem is not talent-related. They need to work their cable affiliates to get better placement on more systems. There are plenty of dynamic liberals who can be called upon for hosting chores, but if the channel is not easily available to viewers it doesn’t do much good.

Keith OlbermannIt will be interesting to see what happens to Olbermann. The publicity surrounding this departure, and his previous breakup with MSNBC, could make him appear to be a risky bet for other broadcasters. I hope that’s not the case. Somewhere there must be a good fit for him (perhaps the Internet), and his voice is well worth hearing. There’s one network where he almost certainly will not be turning up, however, I think it would be a marketing bonanza if the parties had the guts to actually do it. But don’t worry, they won’t.

So as they say in TV Land…stay tuned.

Is ACORN Pimp James O’Keefe A Felon And A Rapist?

James O'KeefeThere is a news report today that is raising the question of whether or not crocumentary videographer James O’Keefe is a felon and a rapist. The question has risen from the announcement by O’Keefe that he is suing the CurrentTV network, Keith Olbermann, and David Shuster over remarks allegedly made about allegations that he is a felon and a rapist.

What we already know about O’Keefe is that he is a liar and a convicted criminal. The videos he has produced over the past couple of years have invariably been proven to have been deceptively edited to reflect negatively on his victims.

He misrepresented himself in his ACORN videos as having entered ACORN offices dressed outlandishly as a pimp. It was later revealed that he never did so. He also cut out segments of his videos that showed his victims challenging him and he failed to disclose that some of his victims had even reported him to the police.

His NPR sting was so incompetently constructed that Glenn Beck’s web site (yes, that Glenn Beck) took it apart. The altered video was again selectively edited and this time even included replacing audio in parts with audio from other parts.

Then there is affair where O’Keefe attempted to lure a CNN reporter into a juvenile and salacious prank aboard his “love boat” that was designed to embarrass the reporter and the network. This stunt was so misguided that his own accomplice blew the whistle because she couldn’t go through with it.

His most recent escapade involved an attempt to demonstrate the ease with which one can cast a fraudulent vote. However, the only fraudulent activity he revealed was that of his own activities. He utterly failed to show that any voting fraud had or could occur using the methods he employed. But the use of those methods as captured in his video may have been illegal.

So now O’Keefe has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was been defamed by CurrentTV, Olbermann, and Shuster. The complaint cites instances of his having allegedly been referred to as a felon and a rapist.

The felon charge stems from his conviction in Louisiana for shenanigans in the office of Senator Mary Landrieu. O’Keefe and his cohorts entered the office dressed as telephone repairmen and asked to inspect the Senator’s phones. They were subsequently arrested and O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of entering a federal building under false pretenses. So technically he is not a felon, which Shuster acknowledged and corrected. But he is still a convicted criminal and only avoided a felony record by pleading to a lesser crime.

The rape charge is a misstatement of events wherein O’Keefe was accused by a colleague of harassment in a case that included allegations of possible drugging. The case was dismissed due to jurisdictional issues, but could be reinstated in another court.

So was O’Keefe facing a rape charge? No, he was facing harassment charges. Was he a convicted felon? Not quite, but almost. And for this he is filing a defamation lawsuit. The man who has taken defamation to new levels of repulsiveness is so incensed at these affronts that he is willing to drag himself through the mud and remind everyone of his disgusting behavior.

Can you just picture his testimony? Can you see him on the stand asserting that he is not a felon because he was only convicted of a misdemeanor in a federal office? Can you hear his defense saying that he never faced rape charges, just charges that he held a woman against her will, possibly drugged her, and then threatened her and disparaged her in words and video?

The documents filed with the court go into lurid detail of his encounter with a female colleague and his criminal activity in Sen. Landrieu’s office. If anything, reading the entire complaint proves to me that there could not have been any defamation that was injurious to his reputation because his reputation is that of a scoundrel. To this day, the only persons ever convicted of any wrongdoing as a result of any of the video pranks O’Keefe has conducted are O’Keefe and his accomplices. And there is still other litigation against him pending.

Does O’Keefe really think that he has any chance of prevailing in court where he has to prove that the allegedly injurious statements were made with actual malice? Some of his complaints are merely misstatements, such as the charge that he was on parole. In fact, he was (and is) on probation, and it is highly unlikely that O’Keefe can prove that the use of the word “parole” was deliberate and intended to due him harm. Yet he is taking an aggressive stance in response to these trivialities despite the fact that doing so only exposes him to more bad publicity and coverage of his disgraceful antics and tawdry character. In a statement to his pals at Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism blog, O’Keefe said…

“I welcome criticism and even misguided hatred. But, if they call me a felon, if they call me a rapist, or any other disgusting, libelous, ridiculous thing, I will bring them into a courtroom, I will depose them, I will get access to their e-mails. I don’t care how many golden statues they have, I don’t care how many Emmies, Pulitzers they have. We will bring them to justice.”

That’s a fair amount of pseudo-bravado for someone who couldn’t even measure up to Glenn Beck’s ethical standards. But the material revelation in his statement is that he actually welcomes all of this, misguided hatred and all. He clearly enjoys being called a felon and a rapist. And he doesn’t even care if you’re Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep. The orgasmic thrill he gets just thinking about depositions and access to your email is palpable. So go ahead and call O’Keefe a felon and a rapist. It’s what he yearns for. And although he may not be a felon and a rapist now, I have every confidence that he will someday achieve his life’s ambition.

Keith Olbermann’s New Countdown Premieres to Strong Ratings

Monday night marked the return of Keith Olbermann to television. His new program on Current TV was closely modeled on the old MSNBC version. What everybody has been waiting to find out is whether or not his previous audience would find him farther up the dial.

Well, they did. The new Countdown pulled in 179,000 viewers in the key 25-54 demographic. Of course that is not as much as he was drawing at MSNBC, but Current is in only about two-thirds the number of homes (60 million vs. 95 million). Nevertheless, Olbermann drew in excess of two-thirds of his prior viewers. And he handily beat CNN’s “In the Arena” with Eliot Spitzer (89,000).

More importantly, Olbermann increased Current’s average audience for the time period by 600%. That’s significant because the move to Current has always recognized the need to build the network’s audience and distribution. It is interesting to note that when Olbermann began on MSNBC they were in roughly the same number of homes as Current is in now. Olbermann was a key factor in putting MSNBC on the map, and Current is hoping that he will do the same for them.

It’s important, however, to keep these numbers in perspective. They represent a single day of programming – the premiere day. That could mean that subsequent days may fall off. Or it could mean that fans who haven’t yet found the homestead may do so and the numbers will rise. The only numbers that will have any real meaning are those released after the first year so that a longer-term trend can be observed. And in that time Current promises other schedule changes that will have an impact on future performance.

Today Olbermann and his fans can enjoy this morsel, but the main course has not yet been served. So be patient and stay hungry.

Jubilant Crowds Rejoice As Murdoch Steps Down

News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has resigned and left New York City for his resort in Montauk ending his fifty year reign as a media monarch.


The era of Murdoch has officially ended and citizens the world over are celebrating. There has been no word yet as to the whereabouts of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, but reports indicate that the news enterprise is being handed over to leaders within the Public Broadcasting System.

The announcement, delivered during Fox & Friends, set off a frenzy of celebration, with protesters shouting “America is free! No more lies! No more lies!”

PBS issued a communique pledging to carry out a variety of media reforms in a statement notable for its commitment to diversity, independence, and free speech. PBS’s statement alluded to the delegation of power to local broadcasters and it suggested that NPR would supervise implementation of the reforms.

Responding to the rapidly unfolding events, the White House released a statement saying that they are monitoring the situation closely and the President will speak directly to the issue very soon. The spokesman added that, “We are hopeful for a positive outcome and we congratulate the American people for their stunning and well-deserved victory.”

A thrilled Keith Olbermann said, “The American people have won. But it is now up to us to insure that journalistic ethics are restored and maintained.” Senator Al Franken, a former comedian and radio broadcaster, stopped to comment on his way to an emergency White House briefing and told reporters, “Ha ha ha ha ha. Oh God. Ha ha.”

Glenn Beck was reached at his gold-brick bunker in South Dakota surrounded by an armory and barrels of non-fluoridated water. But when asked for a comment he shouted from a crack in the door. “Marxists. Oh Mommy, Marxists. The Archduke Ferdinand Caliphate has begun. I won’t talk to the Jew media. Leave my property and take George Soros with you.” He then commenced firing genetically modified corn seeds at the press causing numerous tiny bruises, but no serious injuries.

The State Department was in disarray as news reports continued to update the situation. As diplomats scurried from ….. Oh wait a minute. There is new information coming in over the wire right now. What’s that? What is…..It wasn’t Murdoch, it was Mubarak?

Umm…..Never mind.

Keith Olbermann Warming Up To Al Gore? [Update] YES!

A press release this afternoon revealed that Keith Olbermann would be announcing his next career move Tuesday morning in a conference call with the press. That release served as the starters pistol for a pack of media dogs to try to figure out what was up before the appointed time.

The New York Times appears to have won the race with a story that quotes anonymous sources saying that Olbermann will announce a pact with Al Gore’s Current TV. The details are sketchy, but they include an on-air presence for MSNBC’s former star attraction, as well as an equity stake in the company.

Current has had trouble getting traction as a network whose brand identity is rather mysterious. The network certainly didn’t take on the role that many had expected when it was first announced that Al Gore was starting a cable channel. Many assumed that it would be a liberal answer to Fox News, but that never transpired. Instead, it attempted to invent a new genre that melded television and the Internet.

This could be an interesting arrangement. If Olbermann is coming aboard to launch a news division (Current Affairs?), he could restore some of the original excitement that buzzed around the network when it launched. It would not have to be a wholesale reorganization. They could just add a couple of personalities and, if I had my way, a media analysis program that reviewed the other broadcast and cable news outfits (Alternating Current?). And there’s a place for comedy as well. Any of these programming options would work within Current’s current ambiguous identity.

Current TV is presently seen in about 65 million U.S. homes. That’s about 20% less than MSNBC. For Olbermann this might look like a step backwards, but for Current it could be the catalyst that would help them break through to the upper tiers of cablecasting. They could leverage his star power to get more carriage and better channel positioning. And Keith would be able to extend his presence to the Internet with a full service news and entertainment site along the lines of the Huffington Post. Speaking of which, now that HuffPo has accepted gobs of cash to be part of a bigger media corporation, the Internet is in need of a new independent source for progressive news. And HuffPo’s sale demonstrates the potential value of the genre.

The Olbermann FactorNeedless to say, this is all wildly speculative. Tomorrow morning’s announcement may surprise everyone and have nothing to do with Current. Or it may involve Current but in ways not expected. We’ll know soon enough. But there is one scenario that I think we can safely rule out. Olbermann will not be returning to Fox. Rupert Murdoch recently said that he doesn’t want to fire him twice. But you really have to question Murdoch’s judgment when it is Olbermann whom he has called “crazy,” not Glenn Beck.

The news is official. Olbermann will be joining Current TV and bringing Countdown with him. In addition to that he will assume the title of Chief News Officer, implying a larger role in the production of news programming for the network. That is what I proposed above and it looks like they took my advice (leave me to my fantasies). Now, hopefully they can put together a compelling schedule and push the network onto more cable systems and into more homes.