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A hot TV debate and final thoughts on Olbermann

Here's video from my appearance on CNN's "Reliable Sources," including one diagreement over Keith Olbermann between me and former MSNBC reporter-anchor David Shuster, a self-desribed friend of the show host who abruptly left the MSNBC airwaves Friday night.

I promised in my Friday night post to offer analysis of the legacy of Olbermann from his tenure at MSNBC. Some of that can be heard in the video. But I'll offer a bit more after the break. Please click ahead for that analysis after viewing the video.

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And While Shuster questioned my characterization of election night coverage, here's a link to my post and two pieces of video from MSNBC's coverage that I put up the day after the election. You be the judge if I mis-charcacterized it on Sunday's show.

The history referenced on the tape of Olbermann making me one of his "worst persons" dates back to some two years ago when I said on "Reliable Sources" that the kind of angry and partisan rhetoric in which he trafficks is dangerous to this country. I included Bill O'Reilly, of Fox News, in that complaint at the time.

I don't think there is anyone today who would disagree with me about the dangers of nasty, partisan, personal attacks delivered by hosts on cable TV shows.

But because of that history, I gave myself a couple of days to think about Olbermann's legacy. I wanted to try and find something positive to say -- I wanted to make every effort to be fair.

But here is the bottom line: After two days, I cannot think of anything positive to say about Olbermann. He was/is a destructive and dangerous force in the conversation of American politics.

Cable TV has become the primary place in American culture for our conversation about politics. Cable TV is the place where politics and media meet. Yes, it happens on the web and even in legacy newspapers and network TV newcasts, but on cable news channels it is the topic practically 24/7. As we saw in November, more viewers turned to Fox News than any network on election night. That was, by the way, a grossly under-reported story.

Because Olbermann had an audience of 1.1 million viewers a night, he mattered - not nearly as much as Bill O'Reilly who has three times as large an audience nightly on Fox. But, maybe twice as much as the ratings-impaired Parker-Spitzer on CNN, which has less than half Olbermann's audience.

Olbermann was reckless and had little regard for reporting, fact-checking or facts.

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Remember when he made Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, a worst person for allegedly saying there was no room for "facts" in his businesses? Only Murdoch never said that. What he did say is that was there was no room for "fat."

Olbermann grabbed the quote off a sketchy transcript and never bothered to check it -- even though a freshman reporter on a college newspaper would know there is something wrong with the owner of one of the biggest news empires in the world saying his businesses have no room for "facts."

But the incorrect word matched the narrative in Olbermann's head, and so he ran with it instead of doing what any entry-level reporter would do. I tried to mention that Sunday when Shuster said Olbermann will do more "reporting" in whatever new job he ultimately takes up. My thought: He couldn't do less.

I have wriitten extensively anbout Olbermann's behavior on election night in November. He led the MSNBC crew of clowns in heckling, mocking and laughing in the face of conservative victors who were foolish enough to come on MSNBC. Journalistic institutions should not debase the political process and revile the will of the electorate that way.

Olbermann smeared countless people over the years, and MSNBC let him get away with it. If the arrival of Comcast has contributed to getting this reckless figure off the airwaves until his no-compete clause ends, then I have at least one reason to celebrate the takeover of NBC-Universal.

I have covered this industry too long to think Olbermann won't be back on-air somewhere as soon as that clause expires. That's a pity. But for now, I welcome the break, and think cable TV is much better for his departure.

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