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November 24, 2004

Keith Olbermann's Recountdown

Great piece:

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 bloggers—and their general, the host of MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann.


The bespectacled newsman has dedicated numerous broadcasts and copious blogging hours to "voting irregularities" since Nov. 8—every 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.


Nineteen months into his latest TV incarnation—having gone from disgruntled ESPN guy to disgruntled NBC News guy to disgruntled Fox Sports guy and back to NBC—the 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 can’t go. They are my minions—like an unpaid research staff."

A former sportscaster with a Letterman-era sense of irony—a suppressed smarty-pants smirk that hasn’t exactly captured the imagination of the masses—Mr. Olbermann shares with these folks a baseball-card collector’s penchant for obscure data and a sometimes tedious if highly principled interest in below-the-radar minutiae.

Highly principled? Okay, he lost me there.


Mr. Olbermann’s 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 didn’t. ...

And so down the wormhole he went.

It didn’t 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. ...

For his part, he’s invited vote-fraud pooh-poohers on the air and let them have their say—fair and balanced. And if Mr. Olbermann was angry, he didn’t show it. But he did say that if he’d stayed at NBC in the late 1990’s instead of departing for Fox Sports, he would now have the same ratings as Mr. O’Reilly—over 2 million a night, or close to it. "If I hadn’t left," he said, "we’d be doing about as well as O’Reilly is now."

That may have been Mr. Olbermann’s nuttiest theory yet.

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posted by Ace at 03:40 PM

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