With his total number of viewers having declined by 45 percent since his premiere in the 8PM time slot, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell appears to be taking a page from his predecessor Keith Olbermann's handbook.
On Monday's "The Last Word," the host did two segments about Fox News, the first included insults about Irish guys and Bill O'Reilly's "gullible" audience that ended with a school yard challenge to cable news's most-watched personality (video follows with transcript and commentary):
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, HOST: Here is what I see when I look at Bill O'Reilly: A very, very, very rich man who has grown phenomenally rich by playing a character on TV that the most gullible audience in the history of television falls for. When I look at O'Reilly, I also see dozens of guys I grew up with who were just like him. Overbearing, argumentative, Irish guys who think they know everything and can back up nothing. Those guys have always been a joke to me, which is why O’Reilly almost never has the capacity to outrage me, because he is just a joke to me most of the time. But when he blares homicidal encouragement for killing physicians who perform abortions, he deserves all the serious-minded condemnation he has received for that much of it eloquently delivered through microphones of this network.
I realize O'Donnell is Irish, but is all this Irish bashing necessary? Or is this how he thinks he's going to goad O'Reilly into a response that will boost his ratings?
And was the attack on the "Factor" audience specifically designed to evoke e-mail messages from O'Reilly's fans encouraging him to respond to this child?
O'DONNELL: But most of what O’Reilly does day in and day out deserves nothing more than to be laughed at, which is how Saturday Night Live treated him this weekend. What else can you do with someone who says he knows of no other explanation of why the tides go in and out, and then when told it has a little something to do with the moon thinks he can stump you with this question?
BILL O’REILLY: How did the moon get there? How'd it get there? How’d it get there? How’d it get there? How'd the sun get there? How'd it get there? C’mon. How did it get there? Who put it there?
O’DONNELL: He believes he can ask an utterly idiotic question like that and intimidate you, simply by using his faux Irish tough guy style. Billy Boy, I know real Irish tough guys. They don't look and sound like you. And none of them come from Long Island like you. And none of them go to work in makeup like you. Anybody who knows real tough isn't fooled by your act, Bill.
Seems exactly like the juvenile goading one would see on a playground. None of them come from Long Island like you? Or go to work in makeup?
Is this the way a professional television commentator behaves in 2011?
But O'Donnell wasn't done:
Now, I have a homework assignment for your underworked staff. Since they finished explaining the tides and the moon to you, put them to work trying to find what this network has done or what I have done that is anti-American. Take as long as you want. Find it and show it to your audience. And if you're as afraid to accept my challenge as I think you are, if you don't even try to provide facts to back up what you said about me, no one watching this show is going to be surprised, Billy, because they will know that you will have proved everything that I just said about you.
Pretty pathetic, don't you think? O'Donnell, much like children do, was basically saying, "If you don't respond, I win."
Is this how the new owners at NBC think they're going to drive their ratings?
As for his "No one watching this show" comment, the way he's going, and with performances like this, he's going to get his wish.
When O'Donnell premiered at 8PM the first Monday after Olbermann's departure, he garnered over 1.5 million viewers. By last Thursday, that had plummeted to 843,000.
In fact, all of MSNBC's extended prime time shows have seen their numbers collapse in recent weeks.
Are the network's executives going to do something about it by actually improving the programming, or just by trying to antagonize their competition much as Olbermann did?
Given that Chris Matthews has mentioned the name of his competitor Glenn Beck on 17 of his last 20 shows, it sadly appears this is the network's strategy.