First, let’s start on a lighter note with Reason TV, which put together a highlight reel of why no one should really miss Keith Olbermann, even in his more mundane moments. On any other news network, a couple of these would have been enough to get a supposed “news anchor” fired, or at least provided a little counseling. This is the longest Peter Finch imitation ever, as this fond salute demonstrates:
Yesterday a coalition of conservative voices, some of whom belong to the Worst Person in the World fraternity, began calling for Olbermann’s reinstatement. Hugh Hewitt, a friend and mentor, called this the “Free Keith” effort, tongue somewhat in cheek. Bill Kristol took it more seriously at Weekly Standard, as did National Review’s Dan Foster, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Jonah Goldberg, and Kevin Williamson. Andy McCarthy even framed it as a free-speech issue, which I certainly hope was tongue in cheek. Olbermann does not have a First Amendment right to demand publication by MSNBC or anyone else, and MSNBC is under no obligation to do so under the First Amendment — which bars government from silencing its citizens, not force cable news networks to hire (or re-hire) someone whom they do not wish to put on air.
Since I’ve been both a Best and Worst Person in the World in Olbermann’s universe, I have full moral authority to say that the entire exercise is ridiculous. First, NBC is probably not going to fire Olbermann; their executives said as much to the New York Times yesterday. They’re trying to make an absurd point that they treat MSNBC with the same journalistic standards as NBC’s traditional news organization, a suggestion that should have everyone in NBC News walking out in a wildcat strike. As the video above shows, the product makes that argument an obvious and silly lie. Olbermann will get a couple of days off and will return soon; he has nowhere else to go, and NBC doesn’t have many more options, either.
But even if Olbermann was fired for stupid reasons (and this is definitely a stupid reason) … so what? As long as MSNBC operates within the contract, it’s their decision to have whomever they want in that slot. Why would anyone rush to defend someone who refers to conservative women as a “big bag of mashed-up meat with lipstick” while supposedly filling the role of a news anchor? Does a man with a long track record of launching hyperbolic insults and accusations deserve to have people rushing to defend his violation of what appears to be a long-standing rule (even a stupid one), especially when the same person spent prime-time air just a few weeks ago blasting his competition for doing essentially the same thing?
If NBC does fire him, they have plenty of good reasons to do so, not the least of which was the dreadful, histrionic, and completely unprofessional meltdown on Election Night from their entire prime-time lineup. They shouldn’t stop with Olbermann; in fact, they should start with Phil Griffin and start working downward.