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Keith Olbermann Rails Against Ted Koppel, Defends MSNBC - VIDEO

Paresh Dave |
November 15, 2010 | 10:30 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Keith Olbermann struck back at Ted Koppel on Monday night's edition of MSNBC's "Countdown," saying Koppel's brand of journalism failed and that his own sharp, biting analysis forms the foundation for good journalism.

Koppel published an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post, saying the media has lost its objectivity. He heavily criticized MSNBC and Fox News and called Olbermann the most opininated commentator on television's most liberal news network.

During a nearly 13-minute long special comment period at the end of his show, Olbermann defended himself and his network. He said people who herald the broadcasting and reporting of Edward Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Koppel ignore that all three exercised strong editorial judgment. In fact, Olbermann said, they were all liberals. They all influenced the course of presidencies and the nation because of what they choose not to report, Olbermann argued.

Olbermann also chided networks like Fox News for creating a "false god of objectivity."

"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," Olbermann said.

He derided Koppel for shining a light on the Iran hostage crisis every night for 14 months, but then ignoring the reasoning behind the Iraq War for three years.

"The bitter irony that must someday occur to Mr. Koppel and the others of his time," Olbermann concluded, "is that their choice to not look deeply into Iraq before or after the war began was itself just as evaluative, just as analytically-based, just as subjective, as anything I say or do here each night.

"I may ultimately be judged to have been wrong in what I am doing. Mr. Koppel does not have to wait. The kind of television journalism [Koppel] eulogizes failed this country because when truth was needed, all we got were facts --- most of which were lies anyway. The journalism failed, and those who practiced it failed, and Mr. Koppel failed. I don't know that I'm doing it exactly right here. I'm trying. I have to. Because whatever that television news was before -- now we have to fix it."

Koppel used the fact that Olbermann was suspended for making donations to political campaigns to blast the partisan, profit-driven and opinionated nature of modern television news.

"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," he wrote.

Koppel hosted ABC's "Nightline" for 25 years, retiring in 2005.

Reach executive producer Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.


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T (not verified) on November 17, 2010 12:53 PM

So, I guess Olbermann's contention that wealth in America is shifting from the middle class to the very wealthy is just his own biased opinion? Maybe he was unduly influenced by ex-Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips or, more recently, Reagan budget director David Stockman. Or the absence of WMD in Iraq was just an opinion? And Cigna Health whistleblower Wendell Potter was just indulging himself in his shared outrage with Olbermann regarding the practices of the health insurance industry? And the Dept. Of Justice was just pandering to the public by putting Jack Abramoff in jail? So these and many other news items are just one side of a biased, opinionated coin with Fox News on the other side? If that's what Koppel is saying, then I'd have to strongly disagree.

Rufus (not verified) on November 16, 2010 4:25 PM

Unfortunately, Mr. Koppel appears to spend more time watching MSNBC than Fox. It may be true, as he says, that Keith is "the most opinionated commentator on television's most liberal news network." He fails to point out, however, that MSNBC is television's ONLY liberal news network. As an opinionated commentator, however, Keith is factual and constrained when compared to the likes of almost anyone in Rupert Murdoch's stall. Keith's right, of course. The corporate railroad now running the U.S. got its running-go momentum from Rupert's radio commentators, spewing venom to uninformed listeners with room-temperature IQs who rarely read anything more complicated than the sports page. Then they discovered O'Reilly -- who doesn't like phone sex, Bill? -- who convinced them that thinly veiled bigotry was a pretty cool thing to embrace and that, facts to the contrary, providing health care for everyone and making our rich citizens pay fair taxes were intolerable. Murdoch and his Have Mores have learned that, nowadays, it's easier to win wars with words than guns. Rupert's now making a move to oust the BBC in Great Britain and setting up a propaganda outpost in Dubai that will televise, in six languages, his message to the Middle East, another perfect target (80 percent of Afghanistan is illiterate). Then, coming soon to a neighborhood near you in Pakistan, India and China, if he can get his foot in that door...we're in so much trouble and you can't really blame Olbermann if he feels like a voice crying in the wilderness. Pretty soon, he won't be alone.

NellieBly (not verified) on November 16, 2010 10:09 AM

"The kind of television journalism [Koppel] eulogizes failed this country because when truth was needed, all we got were facts..."
Forgive me, but how does Mr. Olbermann distinguish between "truth" and "facts?"

Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2010 11:22 AM

The difference between "truth" and "facts" in this context is fairly simple. Facts can be true, but misleading. If you take a "fact" out of context, it's real meaning is quite often different than it may first appear. In this case, "Truth" is giving that extra context needed to make the "facts" have their true meaning.

For example, you often see anti-global warming pundits cite individual unseasonably cold days as some sort of evidence against GW, but of course that single "fact"-- the temperature of a single day or group of days in a single place-- is almost meaningless. Without the larger picture of the temperature trends on a global scale, you cannot know the "true" state of the global climate.

Henry not Kissinger in Fla. (not verified) on November 16, 2010 8:30 AM

Koppel single-handedly kept Henry Kissinger in the public eye, and gave him a place to voice his self-serving spin on history, foreign relations, etc, for 25 years. That was Ted's idea of objectivity.

Abe (not verified) on November 16, 2010 8:10 AM

Acquaint? You mean equate. Someeone should edit this post.

Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2010 8:04 AM

I believe Mr Olbermann said "To equate this network with Fox, as Mr. Koppel did. . .," not "equate."

Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2010 7:30 AM

Keith Olbermann is a knucklehead

Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2010 6:31 AM

I'm not with stupid, I'm with Keith.

Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2010 2:44 AM

It's official. Keith Olbermann now seriously believes he is a reincarnated Edward R. Murrow, which he is most certainly not. It's one thing to focus on a controversial topic--and attack it head on--when they arise, but quite another to spew night after night of annoying, cheap, comedic gibberish about anyone who sits outside your political comfort zone. Murrow didn't do that. He was sharp. When he confronted someone, it had meaning. Olbermann is deluding himself and it's a shame. His show has nothing to do with news and that--and only that--is Ted Koppel's point. Ted Koppel should know. He's a news man.