Tuned In

The Morning After: Olbermann-O'Reilly Feud Back On, If It Was Ever Off

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So this weekend, Brian Stelter of the New York Times reported that the long-running feud between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly had reached a truce, through the influence of the two hosts’ corporate bosses. Citing four sources at both networks, Stelter wrote that the increasingly venomous back-and-forth had been stilled, in part because of a meeting in which Charlie Rose asked General Electric (MSNBC’s owner) chair Jeffrey Immelt and News Corp (Fox’s owner) boss Rupert Murdoch about it. 

Well, last night, Olbermann returned from vacation, using his “Worst Person in the World” segment to say that it was still on, and how:

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In his piece, Olbermann gave Stelter the bronze medal in his “Worst Person in the World” rundown. Because can you think of three worse things in the world than writing an article that Keith Olbermann disputes? I believe I speak for everyone when I say that I cannot.

(Olbermann, by the way, reveals the shocking fact that Stelter wrote the article even though Olbermann has denied a deal to him “on and off the record.” The only other way one could learn of this scandalously covered-up fact was by reading Stelter’s article, in which he quoted Olbermann’s denial directly.)

Olbermann then gave O’Reilly the runner-up award, largely for remarks Bill-O made about the Harlem restaurant Sylvia’s in 2007. Because if you didn’t hear it then, it’s news to you.

Top spot went to Murdoch, and though Olbermann didn’t mention the role of any G.E. or NBC Universal executives in the non-deal, here he made the real, important point behind the story: in the name of civility or not, it’s never a good thing for corporate bosses to be giving opinion hosts orders—or strongly worded suggestions—about what opinions to express. 

In other Countdown news, Olbermann’s substitute while he’d been on vacation had been former Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe—who, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald revealed, was now working as a consultant for the P.R. firm Public Strategies and took the Countdown sub job without revealing the potential conflict. Olbermann wrote on his Daily Kos blog that Wolffe was done as a substitute host until and unless he can better explain his new role and any possible entanglements.

[Update: Incidentally, Gawker—which the Washington Post recently told us was “killing real reporting”—has a deeply researched and scathing takedown of Wolffe and his P.R. gig.]

So far, though, Wolffe is at minimum the fourth worst person in the world, or even better. So he’s got that going for him.