Skip to comments.OLBERMANNíS RECOUNTDOWN ('Olbermannís fixation on the vote-count story' to get liberal viewers)
Posted on 11/24/2004 12:08:33 PM PST by Cableguy
When Senator John Kerry finally came out of hiding on Friday, Nov. 19, and posted a new message on his Presidential campaign Web site, who was holding their breath?
An army of barefoot, pajama-wearing bloggersand their general, the host of MSNBCs Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
"Regardless of the outcome of this election," intoned Mr. Kerry in a video clip linked to the site, "once all the votes are countedand they will be countedwe will continue to challenge this administration."
"It looks like an M.C. Escher drawing," Mr. Olbermann said in an interview the following Monday. "Is it past or future tense? Is he recounting or not?"
The bespectacled newsman has dedicated numerous broadcasts and copious blogging hours to "voting irregularities" since Nov. 8every scrap of evidence or even feeble insinuation was kindling for a burning obsession that has largely been dismissed elsewhere in TV-land. Nowadays, Countdown is Recountdown.
When pressed, even Mr. Kerrys legal counsel in Ohio, Daniel Hoffheimer, quickly deflated the fantasy that a ragtag group of voting irregularitiesor their ragtag army of chroniclers on the Webcould reverse Ohio from red to blue.
"We dont expect the recount to change what the official count will be," he said. "I dont foresee any big story there."
But long odds make big payoffsexcept when they dontand Mr. Olbermann is a betting man.
Nineteen months into his latest TV incarnationhaving gone from disgruntled ESPN guy to disgruntled NBC News guy to disgruntled Fox Sports guy and back to NBCthe 45-year-old Mr. Olbermann is going Watergate on the Ohio recount, making his show a major-media beachhead for dozens of lefty quasi-conspiracy theorists who clearly wanted to one-up the guys who hog-tied Dan Rather over the summer.
These bloggers, said Mr. Olbermann, were his allies: They "can go places I cant go. They are my minionslike an unpaid research staff."
A former sportscaster with a Letterman-era sense of ironya suppressed smarty-pants smirk that hasnt exactly captured the imagination of the massesMr. Olbermann shares with these folks a baseball-card collectors penchant for obscure data and a sometimes tedious if highly principled interest in below-the-radar minutiae.
"Purely as a story, this could be as trivial as hypothetical irregularities in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting and it would still pique my interest," said Mr. Olbermann. "Because at the bottom line, something atypical happened here, and that, I believe, is at the heart of news."
Mr. Olbermanns fixation on the vote-count story was stoked again on Monday evening, when the Ohio Democratic Party announced that it would join with the Green and Libertarian parties in pursuing a recount in the state of Ohio, offering the remote possibility of a reversal in the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election. At 7:12 p.m. that day, Mr. Olbermann e-mailed to say, "I think it kinda just went mainstream."
But it kinda just didnt. Newsweek political correspondent Howard Fineman came on to the show and acted as Mr. Olbermanns enabler: "They [the Kerry campaign] keep saying these little things designed to make clear, at least to their supporters and the whole blogosphere out there, that they take the possibility [of a Kerry victory] and the need for a recount seriously."
Mr. Olbermanns pull as a broadcaster appears to have peaked at just short of 600,000 viewers a night, on averagea quarter that of Fox News star Bill OReilly, his declared nemesis, to whom he now refers as "my loofah-wielding friend." On Friday, Nov. 19, Mr. Olbermann sat at a corner booth at Osteria del Circo on West 55th Street, his lovely publicist by his side, enjoying the waning hours of his week-long vacationone in which hed blogged 6,000 words on the vote-counting story on his own Web log, Bloggermann.
Off-camera, Mr. Olbermann looked a bit like Don Johnsons seedy stunt double on lunch break: tan sports jacket (no tie), rimless glasses perched on his nose, and a shadow of salt-and-pepper stubble across his face.
"I have no overwhelming loyalty to anything other than: get out a flag and wave it back and forththe truth," he said. "The election story involves newspapers, radio, television, magazines, investigative reporters of all kinds being so comfortable in the rut they have created for themselves that they cannot recognize a great story when they see it.
"I think its intellectual laziness and journalistic laziness," he explained, carving his way through a tuna steak. "There are a lot of people who are working on this, and its interesting that the Net has kind of taken over what used to be the built-in function of newspapers and, to some degree, television and radiothe investigatory Huh? factor. You know: Is this real? Let me just look into this for a couple of hours."
But both The New York Times and The Washington Post had already shot down multiple Web rumors around "Votergate 2004," as the bloggers have called it, and concluded that even if all the irregular votes were tipped to Mr. Kerry, it wouldnt change the outcome.
"Ultimately, none of the most popular theories holds up to close scrutiny," wrote The Post. "And the people who most stand to benefit from the conspiracy theoriesthe Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committeeare not biting."
It was enough to keep Mr. Olbermann chomping at it harder than he had since he reminded his blog readers on Nov. 7 that Mr. Kerrys concession speech was not legally binding. And at the very least, he figured, his show was bringing attention to the rotting underbelly of the American democratic process.
In his view, the medias inattention was a failure of the imaginationa failure to conceive of the election being reversed by new facts on the ground. In his blog, he was moved to "envision the far-fetched scenario of some dramatic, conclusive new result from Ohio turning up around, say, January 4th. What congressman or senator in his right mind would vote to seat the candidate who lost the popular vote in Ohio?"
For inspiration, Mr. Olbermann thinks of Archibald Cox, the beleaguered Nixon-appointed Watergate prosecutor, who once received bags of telegrams encouraging him to "Hang in there."
And so, however far-fetched his project, Mr. Olbermanna Watergate buffdug in his heels. One out of every 20 e-mails he has received "literally says, Hang in there. Keep doing it. And its been very moving and very eye-opening."
And so down the wormhole he went.
It didnt bother Mr. Olbermann that most of his cheerleaders were Web-based Democrats. He said he read a number of blogs, including the left-wing Daily Kos and the right-wing National Debate. But his online support has persisted among the true believers, left-wing sites like Common Dreams and Consortium News. Responses from detractors tended to be belligerently uninformative. "I have seen most of the responses from partisan Republicans, and they mostly consist of: Shut up, Get a life, Youre hurting our troops, You should go back to ESPN, What does a sportscaster know about it anyway?, Red states rule," he said. "All I know is the Democratic ones seem to be a lot more reasonable and offer a lot more evidence that is against their interest."
For his part, hes invited vote-fraud pooh-poohers on the air and let them have their sayfair and balanced. And if Mr. Olbermann was angry, he didnt show it. But he did say that if hed stayed at NBC in the late 1990s instead of departing for Fox Sports, he would now have the same ratings as Mr. OReillyover 2 million a night, or close to it. "If I hadnt left," he said, "wed be doing about as well as OReilly is now."
That may have been Mr. Olbermanns nuttiest theory yet. But it didnt matter, because he did leave, after growing famously dissatisfied and bored with the Bill ClintonMonica Lewinsky scandal that ate up the TV set. "We did 228 consecutive shows that were entirely or nearly entirely about it," he said. "It was like forecasting the weather in Los Angeles."
Phil Griffin, the vice president for prime-time programming at MSNBC, who has known Mr. Olbermann since the early 1980s, said that Mr. Olbermann was in the process of finally breaking throughand it wasnt because he was a partisan.
"I dont think theres an agenda other than, its Keith," he said. "All the stars are aligned for Keith right now. Hes perfect for this new age of journalism."
"Its the most egotistical thing I could say, so I know youll use it, but its true," said Mr. Olbermann. "Sometimes we sit there at the end of the show and go, Its too bad more people didnt see this. See what they missed?"
Actually, they can both go to the same place, as far as I'm concerned...
Keith Olbermann studies Captain Queeg for ideas of how to present his thoughts on the Ohio vote
What is this 'Olbermann' you speak of?
"Countdown with Keith Olbermann"....otherwise known as "The Tinfoil Hat Hour."
Idiot + 1 hour + microphone = Olbermann
Good Lord, if Keith Olbermann could give himself oral pleasure he'd probably stop dating. This guy is totally in love with himself. My wife thinks he looks like a horse. LOL!
>>>>Regardless of the outcome of this election," intoned Mr. Kerry in a video clip linked to the site, "once all the votes are countedand they will be countedwe will continue to challenge this administration." <<<<<
This says it all . What does it mean? It means they will fight this Bush administration tooth and nail and be as partisan as they can be all the while accusing Mr, Bush of not trying to bring the parties together in a Non-Partisan way.
Please do NOT compare me with Mr. Olbermann. It is very insulting.
I think Olberman is doing GREAT work!! HE IS ON TO SOMETHING!!! And, it is just out of reach!! If only Kerry would free up all his $45 million to pay for recounts in key battleground states I know that me and my main man Keith working with other minions all over would do something that would surprise many people! C'mon Keuth, join us in urging Kerry to help get himself elected, "KERRY - UNLEASH THE WARCHEST, DON'T RUN AWAY FROM THIS BATTLE, TOO!!!
But the fact remains, they didn't see it, which should tell him something.
This guy's got it all wrong. WE wear the pajamas ... THEY wear tin foil suits.
Run Forrest Olbermann run. Work it to death. It's helpful to the Democrat cause. No really, it is.
Can anybody be sure Olbermann's "lovely publicist" isn't a 12 year-old boy in drag?
As a native Angeleno, I had to endure too many sportscasts with this guy pontificating about some player or manager. He always knew better. I couldn't understand how anyone could like him. He couldn't report the sports news, he had an opinion about every team and star, and he thought that the audience cared about his opinion.
someone should tell him to remove the coat hanger before he puts on the jacket.