Even his biggest fans probably wouldn’t argue that Keith Olbermann is a transcendently non-partisan journalist. Like his right-wing counterparts on Fox News, Olbermann has carved out a niche for himself as a righteously indignant voice from the left, and he’s upfront about that.
Earlier we asked if Olbermann was crossing the line by appearing in a political ad, and it turns out that he did not give permission and MSNBC is asking Change Congress to stop using it in their ad.
UPDATE An MSNBC spokesperson tells us that no permission was granted given for the use of Countdown in this clip and they are asking to take it out of their clip.
The ad in question comes from Change Congress, an anti-special interest advocacy group headed up by cyberlaw expert and distinguished legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. It takes Representative Mike Ross (D-AR) to task for accepting OVER 9000 over $921,000 in campaign funds from the healthcare lobby and for opposing the public option, despite the fact that the majority of his constituents support it. Aside from a few short clips of Ross and a voiceover from Lessig, the bulk of the ad is a segment from Countdown in which Olbermann criticizes Ross’s record point-by-point. Here’s the ad:
As political ads go, Olbermann wound up in a relatively safe one. Though it unequivocally supports the public option — using Olbermann’s words — this ostensibly isn’t an ad in favor of public healthcare. Rather, it’s about corporate interests’ ability to sway politicians away from voting in accord with the will of their district. Coming out against corporate interests is a little like supporting babies and sunshine; though it can be used to more pointed ends, in itself it is a politically bulletproof stance to take.
Still, there’s something a little odd about seeing a journalist in a political ad, period. It’s not clear if Olbermann explicitly volunteered to be in the ad, but he’s in it for a long time, and Lessig’s email to members of Change Congress touts Olbermann’s presence; he almost certainly could put the kibosh on it if he wanted. In an interview with Bill Moyers, he said that what he does “is really journalism,” and that he’s not biased because “I think the stuff that I’m talking about is so obvious and will be viewed in such terms of certainty by history.” And as he told the ladies of The View, he himself doesn’t vote in elections on the grounds that he’s showing his objectivity as a journalist. But when you appear in an ad that takes shots at a representative, however high-minded those shots are, you’re entering the mucky fray of politics in a way that prevents you from convincingly covering them as an outsider.
Olbermann’s 1997 ad for $4 turkey melt BLT combos for Boston Market is, of course, A-OK.
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