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Keith Olbermann Skewers O'Reilly for Telling Viewers to Call a Dead Man

Reported by Judy - April 29, 2006

When it comes to skewering Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann has a deft touch. He wielded that touch artfully Friday night (April 28, 2006) in a segment he titled "Fair and Balanced -- and Dead," when he ridiculed the Fox News blowhard for urging his viewers to call a dead man and complain about a newspaper story that mentioned O'Reilly's $10 million settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Olbermann made the O'Reilly screw-up the top story on his "Countdown" show, which airs on MSNBC, quite a compliment considering he could have gone with Rush Limbaugh being arrested or photos of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, leaving a gas price photo-op in a hybrid car and then getting out of it and into a gas-guzzling SUV a few blocks away. The O'Reilly screw up had stiff competition indeed.

First the background. On Monday (April 24, 2006), O'Reilly ripped into the Syracus (N.Y.) Post-Standard for "smearing" him by mentioning the Andrea Mackris lawsuit and encouraged his fans to call publisher Stephen Rogers.

"Hey, good luck with that," Olbermann joked. ... This Mr. Rogers is dead. ... If you're going to call him, make sure you don't get stuck with some heavy duty roaming charges."

Olbermann did his piece about the O'Reilly goof against a grahic that showed a photo of O'Reilly superimposed against an outline of the continental U.S. and a portion of an American flag, along with the banner, "The falafel-guy Fatwa."

Even before he got to the meat of his top story in the "Countdown," however, Olbermann set it up with a piece on an earlier O'Reilly bone-head move -- his threat to send Fox News security personnel to the home of a caller to his radio show who mentioned Olbermann's name.

Referring to that incident, Olbermann noted that apparently even the lesser-lights at "Fox Not Facts" News are afraid to speak the "secret word --' my last name." He played a tape of a Fox News radio show, "Brian and the Judge," featuring Brian Kilmeade and Judge Andrew Napolitano. Kilmeade took over the show from Tony Snow, who became George Bush's press secretary, and Kilmeade was grousing that Snow did an exclusive interview with Brit Hume, rather than him.

To which Napolitano said, "Where do you think he's going to go -- Keith Olbermann? (pause) I shouldn't have said that."

"No, you can say it," Kilmeade said, "but I would say you couldn't get further enough away from Keith Olbermann. He's a train wreck. But no one's watching, so why give him publicity, or listening."

Olbermann lampooned Kilmeade as a "train wreck" himself. "Don't worry, Brian, I won't tell anybody how you used to tell me that you'd modeled your career on mine. But seriously, I mean, an ex-sportscaster turned into national news commentator. ... Never mind," said Olbermann, himself an ex-sportscaster but a better one than Kilmeade ever dreamed of being.

Then Olbermann segued into the falafel-Fatwa piece. He ended with a nice interview with the guys from the "Sweet Jesus I Hate Bill O'Reilly" website -- Tom Brewer and Joseph Amann -- who uncovered O'Reilly's stupid error.

Olbermann admitted that everybody in the news business eventually makes mistakes and noted how he had put up the wrong photo for a story and the next night named "Countdown" the worst persons in the world. He wanted to know if O'Reilly had apologized yet for his own idiot move.

"Not as far as we know. ... He's not really the apologizing kind. We're figuring that there's a better chance that the dead guy's going to apologize to Bill than the other way around," said Brewer.

Olbermann asked the duo, who met while working on an alternative newspaper in Wisconsin, how they find O'Reilly's mistakes, which they have compiled into a book with the same name as the website. (See our donation post for information on how to obtain a copy of the book.)

Amann said that O'Reilly's patterns are easy to spot after watching him for awhile. "Any time he quotes a statistic or tries to interpet a chart or a graph, that's usually where we start --whenever he tries to use anything that he considers a fact," he said.

Asked for their favorite O'Reilly pinochio moment, the pair cited O'Reilly's use of the bogus "Paris Business Review" to suggest a boycott he urged of French products had been successful.

Olbermann joked about the possiblity of Foxinistas coming after the two and how they might die -- "and the last thing they saw were loofahs."

Olbermann capped it off with, "Boys, the falafels are on me, as we say around the building."

All in all, it was hilarious.

Fox News likes to ridicule Olbermann's show since it's ratings according to mediabistro are lower -- 347,000 viewers versus 2.5 million for O'Reilly, which is on in the same time 8 p.m. ET slot, or a more than 7-to-one advantage.

But Fox News obviously is bothered by Olbermann's digs, given Napolitano's hesitancy at speaking his name. Why? Probably since the gap between the two shows is much narrower in the key 25-54 age group coveted by advertisers. There, the advantage is closer -- 456,000 for O'Reilly to 119,000 for Olbermann, for a ratio of less than four to one.

Regardless of what the ratings say, I hope MSNBC sticks with Olbermann. Anybody who's willing to take on the bully O'Reilly can't be all bad.

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