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. hoorah!

    love ya Keith! you tell them buddy! all these old farts and fox news need to be replaced by fresh TRUTHFUL journalists, anchors and news commentators such as yourself!...keep up the good work!

    maybe next we can get rid of CNN!

    November 16, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  2. clbrune

    Olbermann is right.

    The FOX-MSNBC comparison is a false equivalency.

    And mainstream reporters are shallow, uncritical, lapdogs.

    Does anyone think, for example, that Brian Williams could ever conduct an insightful interview of Bush, or Obama, about Government Secrecy, Torture, or imprisoning US citizens without charges?

    November 16, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  3. Fair is Fair

    Poor Keith... since being on the air at PMSNBC, he's gotten trounced in the ratings. Pretty soon his 8 viewers are going to be tuning in elsewhere as well.

    November 16, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  4. ken

    Mr. Koppel was right about Faux News.

    November 16, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  5. ThinkAgain

    MSNBC, NPR, and various other news sources do NOT make up facts like Fox! Olbermann is right; there is no comparison between objective journalists and propagandists like Rupert Murdoch and his minions.

    November 16, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. KPATL

    Keith,.. like usual you are on the wrong side of reality. Ted is right. Both MSNBC and Fox have fallen off the objectivity wagon. You proved it when you declared the following statement: "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 " Ask any returning vet if he believes what you just said. You sir, are a blight on our country and I will fight to make sure you do not succeed.

    November 16, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. Big George in Big D

    Obie – the biggest spinner of them all!!! What a laugh coming out of his horrible mouth. I don't see how the man keeps a job, he's so "up his own" he cannot reasonably report anything near the truth because he can't keep his own big mouthed-2 cents worth shut!

    November 16, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. Dennis

    As far as I'm concerned Olbermann is the flip side of Rush Limbaugh. Both are lunatic fringe and irrelevant.

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

    Anyone who knows anything about journalism knows MSNBC and Fox News are highly slanted left and right. Thats what they are there to do spin. Liberals and conservatives tease each other about these networks pundits. Mr. Koppel states the obvious. Mr. Olbermann states the absurd.

    November 16, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  10. Joe A

    Keith Olbermann's hysterical rant quite effectively demonstrates that Koppel is is the one who is right.

    Without a doubt, Olbermann is easily the most thin-skinned commentator on any network. Any time he is criticized, even mildly, he reacts like a tantrum-filled five year-old.

    November 16, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  11. AmericanDoc

    Olberman seems more offended for being compared to fox than for being called unobjective. This just goes to prove Koppel's point. What Ted Koppel fails to confess is that the big three traditional networks and the number one cable news network have shown an obvious left sided bias in the last 15 to 20 years. This left the market hungry for a network that would represent the majority of the country. Hence Fox news. Just look at the raitings, don't believe my words alone. If objectivity had truly been a virtue, we never would have needed a conservative network. Go back and watch clips of Peter Jennings covering the Clinton impeachment trials. Every time a democrat took the podium, the whole speach was televised. Every time a republican took the podium and started to make an interesting case, Peter Jennings would interrupt with his own comments and the camera would switch to him. This was the first time I recognized the Main Stream Media's bias. Lets not even get started on the clearly exposed NPR. The market represents the people, just like its supposed to.

    November 16, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  12. See Novak

    Looks like he proved Koppel's point. How more unobjective could you be than 15 minutes of "special comment"?

    November 16, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. dadsnorz

    Keith – Please go back to ESPN..I actually liked you there...

    November 16, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  14. Joot

    Ah, KO's ego continues to swell. His arrogance has never been greater. Imagine what he could do if he took less time opining and dedicated more time to relaying the facts in the style of Joe Friday. That would be the type of media person this country (and world) needs.

    November 16, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  15. Mike in Texas

    Fox would have posed it as a question just like Rush and Beck do. They don't accuse someone of something, they just pose a question and their viewers or listeners believe it is truth.

    Rush got fooled by a bogus story regarding a college thesis by Obama and Fox got fooled by a story about the Los Angeles Police bying rocket packs.

    Fox also pushed the story of the McCain supporter who claimed she was robbed by a black man and when he saw her McCain bumper sticker he carved an "O" on her forehead....all of which was a lie.

    November 16, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  16. LW

    Oh, for the days of Walter Cronkite, and the 'real news.'

    November 16, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  17. Jim

    You know, maybe Olberman needs to go off the air permanently. This guy's ego is incredible. While I don't agree with what MSNBC did to him, he is just an op-ed speaker, not a reporter. He wasn't a very good journalist for sports (A passable anchor, byt not a journalist), and he is, for the left, the very same kind of caricature we mock in Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaigh. And the vitriolic anger spewed by all 3 of them is, in large part, why we are so divided. All of these guys need to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

    November 16, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  18. Mike in Texas

    One instance I remember is when Obama went to Hawaii for his grandmothers funeral. Rush said, maybe he is going their to take care of that birth certificate issue. I am not saying that, but could it possibly be? That is how they do it.

    November 16, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  19. Rob

    All news organizations have failed the public. Some more than others, but for one side to criticize another side, what's that expression, if you live in a glass house.....

    November 16, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. ricosu

    Well, Koppel has hit at the heart of the problem: that these news outlets present news in the way viewers WANT to hear it and the truth is subverted to that process. An underground phenomenon that accomodates this is politically oriented viral emails although this is a phenomenon heavily biased toward the right wing. It's incredible and dismaying that people accept these emails and forward them to many of us who have no interest and would never consider forwarding political emails to others who'd not asked for them. What ever happened to mom's advice: don't discuss politics or religion? Factcheck.org has shown 90 percent of these to be false. I can't believe people buy into these things without question when a simple check would have shown the lie for what it was. I"ll tell you it doesn't reflect well on the guy who forwarded the insipid email.
    And then there's talk radio. Why would anyone sit there and listen to this stuff without question? It's apparent a talk show host is interested in maximizing viewership and stirring the pot serves that end better than a well reasoned look at both sides of an issue, not to mention that quite a few of these guys didn't have successful educational backgrounds.

    November 16, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. manala

    I have to agree here. Olbermann is not a shinning example of unbiased reporting, indeed he is very clear about his beliefs. But the fact is that MSNBC does not let the left get off scott free and they certainly do not edit facts or dance around issues when they are called out a la team Beck/Limbaugh. It's silly to compare anything to Fox because that channel's level of of bias and lying is simply unprecedented.

    November 16, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. Joey

    Is Keith Olbermann real or is he like a wrestling character...lol....

    November 16, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  23. once upon a horse

    I will agree with Kopple that I too miss the days when we had real news. Let's face it both FoxNews and MSNBC are right and left leaning 24 hour new channels with at least MSNBC willing to factcheck instead of just putting it out there like Fox does. Still a lot of it is just too opinionated and we now have politcal candidates not only having their own shows on cablle tv news but also having stations back one party over another both vocally and financially. And as we've seen at FoxNews, TRUTH in reporting is not that important. And then we have those that oppose a Fairness Doctrine that would allow opposing viewpoints. The rise of 24hour news networks have really had a great impression on politics in this country both good and bad.

    November 16, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. Jack

    There can be no reporting without bais. Objective reporting is a falsehood that we need to drop. Absolutely no one can ever report anything without bringing to the subject their own perspectives. Everyone views the world/subject/issue is from their experience and the information they gather at the time.

    That is why people will continue to change their opinion on any and every subject because of additional information.

    What should be said in reporting is "With the information that we now have; this is the view of what is going on!"

    November 16, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. tidho

    I think its hilarious that MSNBC continues to pretend they aren't being (at least) the bias equal of FOX. Maybe, like America, Olbermann doesn't watch his own show.
    There's nothing wrong with doing what MSNBC and FOX News do. They just shouldn't pretend they're something they're not. ...and they certainly shouldn't point a holier than thow finger at the other.

    November 16, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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