This is one of the funniest things I've seen in years: MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, the man who on a nightly basis drags journalism deeper and deeper into the abyss, is actually worried about integrity in his industry.
"From a professional standpoint, how do you determine whether these guys or just [James] O`Keefe by himself, whether they qualify as journalists, rather than political provocateur?" the "Countdown" host ironically asked guest Greg Mitchell of the Huffington Post Thursday.
It got better: "[E]ven as a journalist, you can espouse views and maintain sufficient journalistic integrity."
I'm serious. He really said that. With a straight face no less (video embedded below the fold with transcript):
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Also joining us tonight, Greg Mitchell, the longtime editor of "Editor & Publisher" who`s now writing for "Huffington Post."
Greg, good to talk to you.
GREG MITCHELL, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Happy to be here again.
OLBERMANN: From a professional standpoint, how do you determine whether these guys or just O`Keefe by himself, whether they qualify as journalists, rather than political provocateur, or where is -- is there a line, is there a clear, bright line, or is it not so bright?
MITCHELL: Well, I think that they seem -- they seem more like Borat than Woodward and Bernstein that I think you can make that distinction.
No. This wasn`t journalism at all. And it`s insulting to the great investigative journalists who go out there every day often unheralded and do tremendous work, often in the public service. Not advocacy, not liberal or conservative people who bust their butts every day for newspapers, large and small, for networks, large and small, go out and interview dozens of people, collect incredible hours of videotape and put together, you know, lengthy series or important programs on television, which are actually in the public service, expose corruption, expose environmental hazards, health hazards, public safety issues. And it`s really a smear on all of them to liken any of these people to journalists.
OLBERMANN: And even as a journalist, you can espouse views and maintain sufficient journalistic integrity. I mean, here, we have defended right-wingers when the facts bore it out. We`ve dropped stories, like trying to prove a negative when I say this, but we`ve dropped stories when our own fact-checking determined that, you know, John McCain was getting a bum rap, aspects of this very story have been, you know, left on the proverbial cutting room floor because they weren`t true. So, we didn`t report them.
That`s the distinction. You leave out what turns out not to be true. You don`t bury what turns out to be true, and just doesn`t fit your story.
MITCHELL: Right. Well, that -- I mean, real journalists do an incredible amount of work behind the scenes. And I think of "60 Minutes" which has had its share of flubs, you know, we all recognize that. But, on the other hand, they`ve done incredible work in which they have large staffs who spend weeks and months assembling evidence, get thousands or tens of thousands of pages of documents, and put together reports which are -- sure, boiled down to 10 minutes, so you don`t see what`s behind them. But you see the work that comes out of it and they can always be held up to people investigating them later and saying, are they fair or not?
But the reason "60 Minutes" has been so successful is that 99 times out of 100, people are not able to show that they were truly not fair, took things out of context, selective editing. That`s one of the problems with the ACORN footage is, as you mentioned, the selective editing that went into it and the loss of credibility that really -- they really were showing the truth.
OLBERMANN: Yes. I`m suddenly thinking of Martin Short`s character Nathan Thurm. Is it him or is it me with the fake Mike Wallace and Harry Shearer years ago?
But there is -- the irony to this and the claim that these are journalists or kid journalists who don`t really understand the rules, or who were rewriting the rules, whichever, you know, answer is given based on what hour of day it is, it changes all the time, there`s an irony here. It would seem they have video documenting the reaction of Landrieu`s staff to this, you know, supposed phone bank outage or whatever it was. That`s -- that could be a scoop.
OLBERMANN: This would refute claims of senatorial office indifference. The irony is, journalistically, if you came back with something like this, as a journalist, this would be a good story.
MITCHELL: Well, I`m not quite sure what they have, and certainly, I hope the message to the many conservative activist journalists which they have tried to inspire in the past is that you certainly don`t want to risk going to jail for something, you know, for this kind of dirty trick, trying to get something on cell phone of indifference in a senator`s office is hardly worth spending five years in jail.
So, I hope the message that comes out of this, you know, is twofold. Let`s make a distinction on what`s real journalism and what isn`t. And, second, let some of these people who want to try the kind of dirty tricks or dress up as pimps, or do some of these things, let`s hope they think twice and networks like FOX think twice about airing this footage in the future.
OLBERMANN: Well, just remember the rule here, though. If it fails it`s a prank, just a prank.
OLBERMANN: If it succeeds, it`s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism.
MITCHELL: Yes. Well, I know -- I know you know all about Donald Segretti.
MITCHELL: And the difference between Donald Segretti and Seymour Hersh, for example.
OLBERMANN: A mouse and an elephant.
Greg Mitchell, former editor of "Editor & Publisher" -- great thanks, sir.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
What a crock.
If O'Keefe and Hannah Giles had exposed conservative fraud or a corporation polluting the environment, Mitchell and Olbermann would be applauding their efforts and suggesting they receive Pulitzer Prizes.
But because the pair uncovered illegal behaviors within an organization Mitchell and Olbermann revere, they should be shunned as lepers.
Honestly, I don't know how people like this look at themselves in the mirror when they brush their teeth in the morning...assuming they do.
As for Olbermann pointing fingers at others to maintain journalistic integrity: Physician, heal thyself!