On Tuesday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann twice claimed that FNC contributor and former anchor Brit Hume’s public recommendation that Tiger Woods convert to Christianity to help solve his personal problems amounted to trying to "threaten" Woods into conversion. Previewing a segment focusing on Hume’s Monday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor to clarify his words from Fox News Sunday, Olbermann teased the show: "Brit Hume and the attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity. He does it again."
Olbermann also plugged the segment before a commercial break: "Brit Hume has tried to force Tiger Woods into becoming a Christian again. That in a moment."
The Countdown host introduced the segment, contending again that Hume had tried to "threaten" Woods into becoming a Christian: "Brit Hume of Fox News has not only not apologized for his bizarre on-air attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity, he`s actually gone further."
Notably, in December 2005, Olbermann distorted the words of former FNC host John Gibson from Gibson's radio interview on the Janet Parshal Show and compared the program to "an Al-Qaeda show on Al-Jazeera talking about infidels."
And a bit earlier in November 2005, he even attacked proponents of intelligent design theory, which he labeled as "nonsense," and compared its supporters to those who believed the world is flat and who supported burning scientists at the stake.
And in September 2008, he mocked then-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin because she had talked about her pastor praying that she would win the governor's election in Alaska. Olbermann: "Just like voters in the presidential election. This begs the question, of course, why bother? If you want to get something done, ask the Lord. He or she probably doesn't have much else to worry about besides oil pipelines."
Olbermann compared Palin to the notorious character Elmer Gantry from Sinclair Lewis's 1927 novel of the same name, and to a famous evangelical Christian leader from the early 20th century named Amy Semple McPherson, who was believed to have faked her own kidnapping in the 1920s. Olbermann: "Listening to her, and this doesn't just apply to the tape we just saw, but throughout the last, the 10 days of Sarah Palin, she's Elmer Gantry. She's Amy Semple McHockey Mom."
Below is a complete transcript of the relevant segment from the Tuesday, January 5, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: Brit Hume and the attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity. He does it again.
BRIT HUME, FROM THE O’REILLY FACTOR: You speak the name Jesus Christ, and, I don’t mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose.
OLBERMANN: BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK: Brit Hume has tried to force Tiger Woods into becoming a Christian again. That in a moment.
OLBERMANN: Brit Hume of Fox News has not only not apologized for his bizarre on-air attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity, he`s actually gone further. Before we detail Hume`s double or nothing bet on this subject, for context, here was his original statement: "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don`t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
Now, let`s change just one word in there and try to guess what the reaction in there would be if his remarks had been these: "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don`t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption offered by the Islam faith. So my message to Tiger would be, Tiger, turn to the Islam faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
And yet, when Billow (Bill O’Reilly) asked Hume whether he had been proselytizing, he said, I don`t think so. The more he spoke, the more apparent that his original comments were merely a warm-up.
BRIT HUME, FROM THE O’REILLY FACTOR: -and my sense about Tiger is that he needs something that Christianity, especially, provides and gives and offers. And that is redemption and forgiveness. And I was, I was really meaning to say in those comments yesterday more about Christianity than I was about anything else. I mentioned the Buddhism only because his mother is a Buddhist and he has apparently said that he is a Buddhist. I`m not sure how seriously he practices that. But I think that Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs.
OLBERMANN: Badly needs? Hume left it at that, right? Oh, no.
HUME: What I`m saying is if Tiger Woods were to make a true conversion, we would know it. It would show through in his being. And he would know it, above all. And he would feel the extraordinary blessing that that would be. And it would shine because he is so prominent. It would be a shining light. And I think it would be a magnificent thing to witness.
OLBERMANN: A magnificent thing from a prominent figure, you know, kind of like when Tom Cruise displayed the magnificence of Scientology when he trashed Brooke Shields for her treatment of postpartum depression. When asked by Mr. O`Reilly what drives the negative comments about Christianity-
HUME: It hasalways been a puzzling thing to me. The Bible even speaks of it, that, you know, you speak the name Jesus Christ, and, I don`t mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose. And it has always been nuts. It triggers a very powerful reaction in people who do not share the faith and who do not believe in it.
OLBERMANN: Let`s turn to the president of the Interfaith Alliance, host of Air America`s State of Belief, Reverend Welton Gaddy. Reverend, good to talk to you again, sir.
REVEREND WELTON GADDY, AIR AMERICA HOST: Glad to talk with you. Sorry about your friend.
OLBERMANN: Oh, thank you kindly. Mr. Hume, I think, missed a point here that really is one of those wonderful days when a cliche comes to life. He`s not being attacked for his specific religion. If he had said, you know, Tiger Woods needs to convert to Judaism or to the Mormon faith, the reaction would have been similar if not identical. This is literally about somebody being in public holier than thou, isn`t it?
GADDY: Yeah, I think it`s part of that, Keith, and it`s also, I would defend the right of Mr. Hume to confess his faith however he wants to. But all of us know that with rights and freedom come responsibility. And he`s talking on a national news program. He`s giving his opinion, as he has the right to do. But anybody who is pro-American, who loves liberty in this nation, wants to support the unity of religions and not contribute to their divisiveness. And his statement, though he backed up on it a little bit last night, his statement was still a judgment about another religion, a judgment he really doesn`t have the authority to make.
OLBERMANN: And the irony on that judgment, is it not correct on theories of religion, he`s got his facts wrong. I mean, he said Buddhism does not really have a vehicle for forgiveness? If you`re going to go out on this limb, if you really feel you want to do that and take whatever the blowback is, I`m in agreement with you, good for you and good for your faith and what you believe in. But if you`re going to speak about somebody else`s religion, are you not obligated to know enough about their religion not to make a big mistake?
GADDY: Absolutely, Keith. And I wish everybody abided by that principle. The fact is that Judaism has a strong doctrine of forgiveness. Other religions practice forgiveness as well. What`s interesting in this instance is that I personally was offended by the way in which Mr. Hume talked about forgiveness and repentance within Christianity. He described a situation in which it was almost like, here`s a marketplace of religions from which Tiger Woods can draw, and the best one to go to, where forgiveness seems to be cheapest (OLBERMANN LAUGHS) and redemption cheapest, is Christianity. That is a striking sign that he doesn`t understand the pain that goes with forgiveness and that always accompanies redemption within Christianity.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. It`s like he`s car shopping at that point. But the other thing in here that this immediately get converted into, no pun intended, was the conversation between Hume and O`Reilly about the war on Christianity. O`Reilly asked what drives negative comments about Christianity. Hume made the reference to every time you speak the name Jesus Christ, hell breaks loose. It`s not a war. Why is there so much defensiveness about this right now?
GADDY: Because there is this persistent rumor among the religious right that somehow Christians are persecuted in the United States. They don`t understand religious persecution. If they`d look around the world, they would. The fact is, Keith, I`ve been a Christian minister for 50 years almost. I talk about Jesus. I talk about Jesus with people who are members of other faiths, but I do that with respect for them, ready to listen to them, as well as them listen to me. What Mr. Hume was doing was trying to impose a kind of pseudo established religion on someone else. And that is not in the spirit of religion generally or Christianity specifically.
OLBERMANN: The Reverend Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance and Air America, it’s always a pleasure and an education, sir. Thank you again for your time.
GADDY: Thank you, thank you.