In his Monday "Media Notes" column, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz promotes the Bill O'Reilly vs. NBC/MSNBC feud as the media-bias equivalent of the Donald Trump vs. Rosie O'Donnell "smackdown." O'Reilly declined to comment, but Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti says he "has exposed media bias for the last 10 years. This is nothing new. We don't know why NBC finds the label 'liberal' so insulting."
The strongest voice in the Kurtz piece is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Joe Scarborough, once again proclaiming how he's more liberal (ahem, "independent") than any other supposedly conservative commentator on the tube:
Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who has been trying to demonstrate his independence from the GOP, says in an interview that O'Reilly "really does toe the party line more than I ever have."
"I certainly took offense when he said there were no conservatives at the network, we were all liberal stooges and Marxist sympathizers," Scarborough says. The "final straw," he says, was when O'Reilly criticized Richard Engel, NBC's Middle East bureau chief, for "suggesting the obvious" -- that the rushed hanging of Saddam Hussein had been "a PR disaster." (President Bush told NBC's Brian Williams last week that the execution video ranked just below Abu Ghraib in terms of the war's mistakes.)
Last Wednesday, Williams reported on the Nightly News about meeting with Bush at the White House: "I asked the president if he had seen the execution video of Saddam Hussein. He indicated that he had and said, in his view, the way it was handled ranked just below the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in terms of mistakes made thus far in the war." If Bush really said it the way Williams reported it, it seems designed to pander to network anchors. How can a few comments around the execution of a tyrant compare to what Saddam himself did to prisoners inside Abu Ghraib?
But Kurtz favors NBC/MSNBC over Fox as he routinely adds details to his article that stick up for Engel, and Brokaw, and so on. But he doesn't note that Scarborough was exaggerating in his remarks, that O'Reilly wasn't using words like "Marxist sympathizers" to describe the Peacocks on "The O'Reilly Factor." Kurtz allows that line to sit there uncorrected.
As for Scarborough being "independent," while he's aggressively proved he can trash Republicans on air, the thing he hasn't proved is whether he can be independent of his network bosses. Instead, on air and in the papers, he's a vicious attack dog toward Fox News or anyone else who would air a discouraging word against those liberal bosses of his.
Anyway, Kurtz also handed the mike over to Olbermann for his usual parade of arrogance:
In an interview, Olbermann says O'Reilly's latest offensive "reeks a little bit of an attempt to get some attention," though the former sportscaster admits he started the feud as a way of raising his profile.
Olbermann has, for once, limited his on-air comments about O'Reilly. "Something sent him over the edge, I don't know what. Other than the sandbagging and bullying of Andrea Mitchell, it's kind of laughable. . . . There's no point in having a fight with someone who looks like an idiot."
Kurtz made no room in his article to lay out how Andrea Mitchell denied there was any such thing as liberal bias at NBC or other networks, as if it was all as imaginary as the Tooth Fairy. Kurtz also mentioned Tom Brokaw under attack from O'Reilly:
O'Reilly also chided former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw for his comments about the mishandling of Saddam Hussein's hanging. (Brokaw also called Hussein a "godawful man.")
Saddam's awful? That's an easy thing to say -- as you denounce Team Bush for messing up another part of the war. (O'Reilly's point was that any mistakes made in the cell-phone hanging video are made by Iraqis, not Americans.) But Kurtz leaves the impression that O'Reilly didn't show his viewers the clip of Brokaw calling Saddam "godawful" -- which he did, on the way into his January 5 Mitchell interview, and in a longer clip on January 4.