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Keith Olbermann Gives Contradictory Statement to Glenn Greenwald

Last night Keith Olbermann took to the airwaves to defend himself against charges made by the New York Times, and amplified by Glenn Greenwald, that there had been a "deal" struck between General Electric and Newscorp to end the feud between Olbermann and O’Reilly.  

Olbermann singles out NYT reporter Brian Stelter as his "third worst person in the world":

The bronze to Brian Seltzer of the New York Times front page story — front page story Saturday — about a "deal" in which, as the headline read,  voices from above silence a cable TV feud problem — Mr. Stelter asked me at least twice last week if there was such a deal, and I told him on and off the record  there was not, and I told him that I would obviously have to be a party to such a deal,  and I told him that not only wasn’t I, but I had not even been asked to be by my bosses.  And he printed it anyway.

And I’d even written to him that this was merely a misinterpretation of an annoucement I made here on June 1, that because Bill OReilly of Fox News had abetted the assasination of Dr. George Tiller,  he’d become too serious to joke about, and I would thus stop doing so – an announcement that would obtain unless and until, of course, I felt like changing the rule again later since this is not the Constitution here, it’s a half-baked television newscast, and I make all the rules.

Contrary to what Olbermann said, he would not have to be party to any deal, nor did Stelter say that he was.  Stelter printed Olbermann’s denial:

Mr. Olbermann, who is on vacation, said by e-mail message, “I am party to no deal,” adding that he would not have been included in any conversations between G.E. and the News Corporation.  

Stelter said that the deal was between GE and Newscorp, arranged by lieutenants of Jeff Immelt and Rupert Murdoch.    A GE spokesman even went on the record:

‘We all recognize that a certain level of civility needed to be introduced into the public discussion,’ Gary Sheffer, a spokesman for G.E., said this week. ‘We’re happy that has happened.’"

But Olbermann reasserts his story that the reason he stopped covering O’Reilly is because of the Tiller matter, having nothing to do with anything that happened at either G.E. or Newscorp.  Which completely contradicts what Glenn Greenwald wrote about the story:

So now GE is using its control of NBC and MSNBC to ensure that there is no more reporting by Fox of its business activities in Iran or other embarrassing corporate activities, while News Corp. is ensuring that the lies spewed regularly by its top-rated commodity on Fox News are no longer reported by MSNBC.  You don’t have to agree with the reader’s view of the value of this reporting to be highly disturbed that it is being censored.

In addition to information contained in the the New York Times article, Glenn also relied on an anonymous "MSNBC source with management responsibilities" to  assert that GE had repeatedly interfered with the journalistic decisions of NBC and MSNBC.  As soon as Olbermann’s segment went up, I started seeing Tweets and blog posts demanding that Glenn retract his claims, because Olbermann had said they were baseless.  As Olbermann himself said in a Daily Kos post:

There is no "deal" between MSNBC and Fox over what we can and cannot cover. This is part of a continuing strategy of blackmail by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, that reaches back to 2004, and has as its goal the cancellation of "Countdown."

So Glenn asked Olbermann to clarify the situation.  Olbermann has released a statement to Glenn:

I honor Mr. Greenwald’s insight into the coverage of GE/NewsCorp talks, and have found nothing materially factually inaccurate about it. Fox and NewsCorp have continued a strategy of threat and blackmail by Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly since at least 2004. But no matter what might have been reported by others besides Mr. Greenwald, and no matter what might have been thought around this industry, there no ‘deal.’ I would never consent, and, fortunately, MSNBC and NBC News would never ask me to.

This is not possible.  Olbermann has now made two contradictory statements about his role in the affair:

  1. He confirms what Glenn Greenwald wrote, which is that he stopped covering O’Reilly because he was told to by his bosses at GEO
  2. He says that his decision to stop covering O’Reilly was purely a response to O’Reilly’s role in the Tiller incident, and that any assertion to the contrary is a blackmail attempt by Roger Ailes

It is clear that there was a deal between GE and News Corp, because both are confirming it. So Olbermann is, at best, guilty of obfuscation by claiming that he was not "party" to any deal.  As Glenn said:

That’s because GE executives didn’t care in the least if he consented and didn’t need his consent.  They weren’t requesting that Olbermann agree to anything, and nobody — including the NYT‘s Stelter — ever claimed that Olbermann had agreed to any deal.  What actually happened is exactly what I wrote:  GE executives issued an order that Olbermann must refrain from criticizing O’Reilly, and Olbermann complied with that edict.  That is why he stopped mentioning O’Reilly as of June 1. 

Either Glenn’s reporting is right, as Olbermann confirms, and he was silenced by GE.  Or Glenn’s reporting is wrong, as Olbermann said last night, and the GE-News Corp deal had nothing to do with his actions.  

There will be a cloud over Olbermann’s credibility until he clarifies what really happened.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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