November 16th, 2010
09:06 AM ET
12 years ago

Olbermann lashes out at Koppel criticisms

(CNN) – Less than a week after returning from his network-imposed suspension for contributing money to Democratic candidates, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann lashed out at a recent editorial from Ted Koppel, in which the former ABC anchor suggested MSNBC and Fox News have recklessly ushered in a new era of unobjective news reporting.

In a nearly 15-minute "special comment" on his program Monday, Olbermann said the media's greatest failing over the last decade isn't a lack of objectivity but instead a lack of truth-telling by major-network anchors and reporters like Koppel.

"Mr. Koppel did not shine that same light on the decreasingly coherent excuses presented by the government of this nation for the war in Iraq," Olbermann said. "The utter falsehood and dishonesty of the process by which this country was committed to the wrong war, by which this country was committed to dishonesty, by which this country was committed to torture – about that, Mr. Koppel and everybody else in the dead, objective television news business that he laments, about that, where were they? Worshipping the false god of objectivity."

In his Washington Post editorial published Sunday, Koppel wrote that, with an eye toward profit, Fox and MSNBC have dangerously embraced business models that do away with the traditional objectivity of journalism and instead spot only opinions their audience wants to hear.

"The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic," Koppel wrote, adding later, "We celebrate truth as a virtue, but only in the abstract. What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts – along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor."

Olbermann appeared to take greatest offense to Koppel's suggestion that Fox and MSNBC have become merely mirror images of each other and vehicles in which political parties disseminate their own spin and doctrine.

"The very kind of fact-driven journalism Mr. Koppel seems to be claiming he represents and I fail, would not stand for his sloppy assumptions and false equivalence of 'both sides do it,' said Olbermann. "We do not make up facts here, and when we make mistakes, we correct them."

"While Fox may be such, we are not doctrinaire," Olbermann continued. "To equate this network with Fox, as Mr. Koppel did, to accuse us of having our own facts, is another manifestation of a dangerously simplified understanding of modern news."

The MSNBC host added that just last week his show killed a segment highlighting a Huffington Post article which claimed former President Bush lifted passages from other political memoirs in his new book.

"It was largely based on excerpts that mostly required heavy editing and still produced only weak evidence," he said. "We killed the segment. Would Fox have? Would CNN have?"

Filed under: Keith Olbermann
soundoff (139 Responses)
  1. Grindstone

    Olbermann is a clown. Does he really think MSNBC holds some moral high ground over Fox because the ultra liberal views expressed there are less overt? So injecting a steady stream of left wing ideology into the minds of Americans and calling it objective reporting is more honest than Fox who openly donates to RNC causes? Really?

    November 16, 2010 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. razmataz

    FOr Olberman to claim that MSNBC is not doctrinaire just totally blew any credilbility his rant may have had. And while Fox News is definitely slanted right, they are not nearly as over the top fanatical, with one or two exceptions, as most of the MSNBC 'pundits' are. Olberman being one of the most egregious. He's a clueless buffoon!

    November 16, 2010 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. pjoe

    I watched this guy a few times ... he comes across like a bully. Even if he has a valid point, the way he presents it makes it almost impossible to accept it. FOX commentators do a much better job IMO.

    November 16, 2010 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  4. Dave

    Go Keith. Fox is nothing more than a extreme right wing propaganda machine.

    November 16, 2010 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  5. Mike

    Can somebody please sit this guy back down on sportscenter where he was given less attention for being so ignorant.

    November 16, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  6. Ferret out the B.S.

    In order to correct a problem you first have to identify that problem and it sounds as though Koppel is giving it a shot while Keith is still in demial mode. I'm behind Koppel and his quest to bring honest, independent, and accurate journalism back to the media. We can only improve from here and please don't back down Ted. May the truth come out a see the light of day.

    November 16, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  7. Skip

    "week evidence"?

    Minor typo, of course – but it seems to me that an article describing a competitor's criticism of one's own network would warrant a modicum of extra editorial attention ... ?

    November 16, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  8. proud mother of soldier

    It boils down all media articles being a matter of "opinion". No facts nor explanations just a reporters opinion.

    November 16, 2010 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  9. Dan

    That's right, MSNBC is clearly non-partisan. Are you also selling swamp land in Florida, Keith ?

    November 16, 2010 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  10. Keith

    I agree with Keith 100%. The major networks have stopped doing their job and objectively reporting the news. FOX is not news but an infomercial for the right wing. I challange anyone to find factual errors in any reporting done by Mr. Olbermann. He has been a pleasant alternative to the right wing trash we have been subjected to over the past 10 years and the wishy washy news given us by the major networks.

    November 16, 2010 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  11. Steve Oehmen

    I'm a big fan of Keith and his show, but let's get something straight from the get-go – and he would strenuously agree with this. His is not, and never has been, a "news show". It is commentary. By definition, "commentary" is slanted one way or another. It is what Limbaugh does and it is what Beck does. Not news. Comment. With an edge, to be sure, but that's what sells advertising. In the end, it is entertainment. The difference between Koppel and Olberman is as night and day. If I recall correctly, "Nightline" began as news concerning the Iran Hostage situation and then went full-time. That was NEWS and that's what Koppel did pretty well. There is a huge difference.

    November 16, 2010 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  12. truth

    Mr. Olbermann is correct about Koppel and the other news reporters. They fail to report the truth. Instead they play to a bias that goes unchallenged. For example, the media has taken a dumb lady such as Palin and touted her unqualified credentials as if she is on the scale of intellectuals. In addition, the media knows that Limbaugh plays to a Jim Crow type audience, yet he goes unchallenge. The media turns on any reporter who tells the truth. Dan Rather, one of the greatest news men of all time, had his career destroyed when he reported the truth about Bush. Keith was right to put Koppel in his place. If it were not for Keith and Rachael, the American people would never hear the truth. Everyone else plays to the ignorant.

    November 16, 2010 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  13. rdepontb

    For you, Keith: While Koppel was so off base as to seem delusional, it may have been kindest to simply ignore his rant. To snap back was a bit like yelling at an old dog who can't help but do his outside business inside. He knows better, we assume, but cannot help himself. Maybe he is hard of hearing, has poor eyesight, and can no longer remember why he entered a room-I see that Half-zeimer's expression on our 16-year old Schnauzer more and more these days.

    November 16, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  14. Indie Woman in Denver

    The only good thing about KO's temp suspension is that we're now talking about what news should be. I don't know that we have an answer yet, and although MSNBC has a definate point of view, they don't make up their own facts like FOX does. You simply cannot equate the two - FOX and MSNBC - and to do so is simply FALSE, Mr Koppel. It's easy to say, but it's still FALSE.

    November 16, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  15. Randy

    I'll admit that I do like Fox much better than MSNBC, and that I like how CNN typically takes the middle of the road. However Olbermann saying that he uses only facts to support his position is a little off. Facts are being currently being created by partial truths and choice of context. Much like consensus currently is being pushed as fact. We all believe this is true so it must be, even though we can't prove it. Prime time on either network has become opinion, not news.

    November 16, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  16. marcamp2

    And Keith Olbermann would be the objective party of trust and truth-telling? Why is that people believe when they have a "mike" in their hand, whether it's a hollywood "star" or a news "journalist/anchor," they believe they are the beacon of trust, hope and knowledge. We haven't had news reporting in years. "Fair and biased," "No Bias, No Bull," "The Spin," "Real Time," "Rachel Maddow," Jon Stewart...they've become the news and the headlinersObjective reporting...c'mon people, one only has to see Soledad's sorry eyes to know when she's happy/unhappy...and then we have to listen to her "tale of woe" while she prances on her Jimmy Choos...let's get a grip on news stories and anchors and be honest about what they are, paid political writers...

    November 16, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  17. Jon Torok

    I find Olbermann to be similar to Hannity almost completely. Maddow is close to O'Reily (The 2 I think are best on each network as well). I like Chris Mathews for the most part. Greta Van Susteren is bland. And then there is Beck. Not much to say there.

    November 16, 2010 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  18. 77Gambler

    Keith Olbermann is mad, utterly mad. And Ms Madcow isn't far behind him. They are the two reasons I do not watch MSNBC or expect any objective reporting, objective journalism. They do not even know what it means.

    November 16, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  19. katiec

    It is almost impossible to find a commentator, news anchor today who does not make their preference known,
    CNN has moved to and supports the right while claiming to be balanced as do most news outlets.
    Fox has become a joke in relation to facts.
    Thank God Keith is there to try and offset the misinformation put out there and point out what we do not get'
    from any other network.

    November 16, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  20. Granny Griper

    Good for you Keith!!! Never cared for Ted Koppel anyway. Keep up the good work.

    November 16, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  21. AFV

    Keith Olbermann should just sue NBC. They have no right to deny Keiths constitutionally protected right to spend his money as he sees fit. This is the most moronic thing to come out of the midterm election.

    November 16, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  22. Get A Grip

    One thing I will say about Keith Olbermann is he sure appears to be on mean unhappy hateful man.

    November 16, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  23. Glen

    Does anybody watch Olbermann? Does anybody watch MSNBC? Who the hell cares what he said?

    November 16, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  24. Squiggs

    Ther has never been a news organization like Fox. Fox is no less than the public relations wing of the Republican Party. MSNBS will critize Obama and Democrats. FOX never critizes the Republicans and in fact will make up stuff about the Democrats. Koppel in his righteous mind and hairdo only threw MSNBC in the mix because he would never want to go up against FOX alone.

    November 16, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  25. Robert

    "While Fox may be such, we are not doctrinaire," Olbermann continued." HAHAHAHAHA he cracks me up!! When was the last time a "worst Person in the World' was a Democrat, Keith? When was the last time either you OR Rachel went after a Dem? Ever comment on the FACTS of Charile Rangel's financial issues? How about his and other Dems ethical issues? Don't see you covering them EXCEPT to belittle the conservative talkers who do!! Not doctrinaire. That's rich!!

    November 16, 2010 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
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