Right-Wing Watchdog Too Hard on Keith Olbermann Over ‘Teabagger’ Poll


Right-wing media watchdog Accuracy In Media took AIM at Countdown host Keith Olbermann Wednesday, tweeting that Olbermann “still has a hard-on for ‘teabaggers.'”

Olbermann took exception, noting the irony of AIM’s use of sexual slang to decry the once-popular term for the Tea Party, but AIM’s bigger problem is in accusing Olbermann of “twisting the poll numbers” to tie the Tea Party to violence, while twisting those same numbers, and my commentary, to illustrate their point.

On the “teabagger” score, AIM’s tweet implies that Olbermann is still using the derogatory (if self-inflicted) term “teabagger.” Whether it’s a consequence of his new effort to tone things down, or just the fact that pretty much everyone but Bill Maher seems to have outgrown the sophomoric joke, give credit where it’s due. Olbermann didn’t use the term in the clip AIM references, and hasn’t for quite some time.

As for the poll they’re referencing, both AIM and sister watchdog Newsbusters have correctly noted that a new Daily Kos/Public Policy Polling survey that showed that 13% of Tea Party voters think that violence against the current American government is justified, versus 6% of Republicans, and 5% of Democrats, also showed that 17% of young voters (18-29 yrs old) gave the same response, a fact that I pointed out Tuesday.

Where they go wrong is in trying to make the case that the larger number for the young voters somehow renders the Tea Party result insignificant. Aim seems to think the fact that young people are the Tea Party’s smallest demographic cuts against the influence of rhetoric on attitudes toward violence. The exact opposite is true.

According to this poll, Tea Partiers are more than twice as likely to feel that violence against our is justified than Republicans or Democrats. At the same time, the core age demographic for the Tea Party, 30-64 years old, only responded positively at a rate of 3%. That means that a Tea Partier is more than four times as likely to feel violence is justified than the average voter in their core age group.

The 17% figure was also significant, and Olbermann probably should have mentioned it. I asked him, via Twitter, if this was an editorial decision, or an honest oversight, but he has not responded.

As I’ve said before, the Tea Party result is definitely worth noting. Tea Party Americans, as Sarah Palin calls them, are more than twice as likely to feel that violence against our government is justified, which is a persuasive indictment of the rhetoric of armed revolution that is the movement’s hallmark, and to which some Republicans play.

That is not to say that the shooting in Tucson was, directly or indirectly, caused by this. However, just because something you said didn’t cause a mass murder doesn’t mean it was a responsible thing to say.

Either way, though, Countdown is a show about politics, and there’s nothing wrong with discussing significant poll results that are related to politics. A discussion of the age demographic would have made it a more complete segment, but its absence doesn’t render it wrong. Furthermore, if you’re going to accuse someone of cherry-picking, you should try to avoid picking your own cherries in the process.

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