Posted by WLS
Yeah, I know I mashed-up the scenes. But this is classic.
Yesterday the left-wingnutroots shot one of their own when Keith Olbermann banned Dana Milbank from appearing on Countdown in the future, and just for good measure publicly impugned his journalistic integrity in the process. On Kaily Dos yesterday, Olbermann posted this:
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, who notified us today that after four years appearing with us, he had accepted another television offer.
This saved your crack Countdown staff an increasingly difficult decision.
For nearly a week we’d been waiting for him to offer a correction or an explanation for his column from last week in which he apparently reported an Obama quote without a full context turned the meaning of the quote inside-out.
Then he called criticisms of his column “whines” even though the dispute was over whether Obama said the self-deprecating: “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign — that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions” — or only the part about “I have just become a symbol…”
We had decided not to have Dana on this news-hour again until this was cleared up, and, sadly after some very happy years, he’s apparently chosen to make that cloud permanent.
The cause of the divorce was this much-talked about piece on July 30 by Milbank calling the Obama campaign out on its increasingly presumptuous conduct and tone. I thought the piece was an early warning shot meant to benefit the Obama campaign by calling their attention to a building meme in the press on the subject. Milbank quoted several examples of reporting being done by other journalists where that impression was being conveyed. The hook for the piece might have been the exclusion of New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza from the Obama press plane going to Europe, after the New Yorker cover which caused so much consternation. There was lots of murmurring on the press blogs that Lizza was getting a taste of Chicago-style political payback.
The passage that Olbermann and his followers (the whole basement full of them) complained about was the one where Obama was quoted by an attendee at a Congrressional breifing of having made reference to himself as being a “symbol” in Europe of the opportunity for America to return to its “best traditions.” The context for the quote was contested the day it appeared in print by others present who said it was really a self-deprecating comment wherein Obama was talking about the fact that the crowds in Europe were about American and a hope for a better relationship with Europe in the future, and the Obama campaign is just a symbol of that hope – or something like that.
Olbermann never addressed the column on Countdown, and Milbank never appeared after it ran. But Olbermann’s alterego Rachel Maddow led the pushback against the column and the “arrogance” charge on other MSNBC shows. From Olbermann’s post on Daily Kos is now seems clear that Olbermann was demanding a correction by Milbank before he would be allowed back on the show. Milbank told him to go pound sand.
Now Olbermann has MIlbank sleeping with the fishes — which leaves Olbermann’s producers able to count on one hand the number of real journalists who will actually agree to appear on screen with him.
My two cents: While Milbank is certainly a lefty in the MSM, and while he has certainly not been friendly to the Bush/Cheney adminstration, I suspect he is one of those political reporters who enjoyed a good relationship with McCain going back to 2000, and probably still likes the guy for his willingness to talk to the press and answer questions. He probably had no use for a return of the Clintonistas, so while Obama was slaying that beast he was an Obama fan — hence a regular at MSNBC, especially on Countdown. But the Obama campaign has never been press-friendly, and Obama’s unwillingness to sit down with the press for unscripted on the record sessions is well-reported — and resented.
Now that the race has shifted to McCain v. Obama, there seems to have been a concern on the part of the Obama-chorus – like Olbermann — that Milbank couldn’t be counted on to stay on the reservation, hence this other comment from the link above:
Anybody who would come on television to talk about the Dick Cheney shoot-up, wearing an orange safety vest and a hunter’s cap automatically gets my benefit of the doubt. But even that had a shelf-life, which was nearing, when he took any further decision-making out of our hands. It was quite a surprise conclusion, obviously, and I’ll take it (before anybody tries to take it back).
Isn’t that a concession by Olbermann that he could no longer give Milbank the presumption that he would faithfully preach the Countdown gospel which is that only good flows from the Obamesiah, and all Republicans are the spawn of the AntiChrist? I’m going to see if I can find examples in recent Countdown appearances by Milbank where he refused to go “all in” on behalf of the Obamesiah and against McCain.
Update: Now we’ve got some sniper fire this morning from each side. Milbank’s versiongiven to TVNewser:
Milbank, who, because of a partnership between his paper and the NBC cable news channel, has been a part of MSNBC’s programming since at least the 2000 election. So where did Milbank end up last night? On CNN, opposite Olbermann. And what does Milbank say about this?
As for his MSNBC departure and arrival on CNN, Milbank tells TVNewser: “It predated the column and nothing occurred along the lines Keith described.” A week ago tonight, Milbank appeared on Countdown and was identified as “MSNBC political analyst.” An insider tell us Milbank’s contract with MSNBC expired earlier this year.
Here’s Oblermann’s response to that claim today:
Dana appeared with us the night before his column appeared with the truncated Obama quote — and did so under the terms of his contract which both he and MSNBC obviously considered still in force. After the column, he contacted us, joking he was glad I hadn’t put him on the “Worst Persons” list, and then discussing with the producers coming on to clarify or explain what he wrote. Out of appreciation for his work for us, I had delayed a permanent decision on whether he should again appear on Countdown. Dana used this time to make another deal, which he told us about the day before he appeared on another network.
But Milbank’s not going to take that lying down from Olbermann:
Milbank also respondedto FishbowlDC’s Patrick Gavin, and seems to take a swipe at Olbermann: “The CNN contract was negotiated long before the Obama column. It’s just that CNN’s a better fit for me and my philosophy of holding all parties to account.”
There is danger here for Olbermann with the serious journalism community. I remember listening to a long interview done by Hugh Hewitt with Mark Halperin, who was at that time the Political Director for ABC, and famously started The Note.
In talking about whether there was a liberal bias in the press, Halperin defended some of his collegues who he knew to be politically liberal on the basis that they made great efforts to keep their biases out of their reporting — but admitted they weren’t always successful. When Hewitt mentioned Olbermann and Countdown, and the journalists that appeared there, Halperin was critical and said he knew of several prominent journalists who would not appear because they didn’t think Olbermann was a serious journalist, and he never had anyone on the show who didn’t agree with him.
So, that is out there. Now Olbermann has publicly banned a prominent columnist for the Washington Post rather than quietly allow him to move on to another network — and called him out by impugning his journalism at the same time.
I suspect Milbank has more friends in the press corp than does Olbermann. Before long Countdown may resemble nothing more than a political leftwing-gasbag version of Regis&Kelly, starring Olbermann and Maddow.
UPDATE NO. 2 — I’ve eliminated the misspellings of Olbermann’s name based on Cyrus’ comment below, which I think makes a good point. Don’t think for a minute, however, that juvenile humor is beneath me.
But the censorship by Olbermann of lefties who don’t toe the party line in his opinion should be an important issue in the blogosphere, no matter what his rationalizations for it are.