MSNBC’s Olbermann and Maddow: Nothing Wrong with Off-the-Record Obama Visit, Since Bush Did It

October 23rd, 2009 1:17 PM

Throughout the previous administration, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann would nightly attack President George W. Bush and members of his administration and regularly bash some conservative personalities for being too cozy with Bush.

However, when he and his MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow engage in the same brand of coziness, meeting with President Barack Obama earlier this week, it's no longer an indiscretion. Instead, it becomes justified - since Bush did it. Olbermann appeared on the Oct. 23 "The Rachel Maddow Show" and he and Maddow responded to critics. Maddow asked him to respond to particular comments from former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, now a Fox News contributor, that there would be an outcry had the Bush administration committed something similar.

"Do you -- people are talking about post-traumatic stress disorder in politics -- do you ever feel like they're walking examples of this, like they have forgotten what they did half the time while in the White House?" Olbermann said. "This is exactly what they did. They had -- not only did they have these meetings, but as you pointed out correctly, they were much more doctrinaire and much more politically - there were eligible and ineligibles, and nobody ever cross from one to the other. They tried to manipulate the news. They paid Armstrong Williams as you noted. It's just - it is, it is pot and kettle. And it's -- it is stunning. And also, basically, conservatives got in there first this time with this president before he actually took office."

Olbermann took the position that there was nothing wrong with it and the meeting was being publicized to "scare" people.

"It's just -- it's just -- it's just confounding and stupid and silly, and it just looks like another thing that they want to wring their hands about as loudly as publicly as possible to scare people for no purpose whatsoever.

Maddow complained that the backlash was drawing her and Olbermann into the feud between the White House and Fox News - which some say makes the White House appear hypocritical when attacking Fox News as "opinion journalism," but embracing MSNBC.

"I think what's -- I mean, the reason that I'm leading with this is not only did the president address it himself, which I think makes it quite newsworthy, but I do also think that sort of mainstream take on this fight between the White House and Fox, the mainstream common wisdom sort of calcifying around the Fox argument that this is unprecedented and that it's somehow unfair and that Fox has being given the short end of the stick in a way that previous administrations have never done anything like this," Maddow said.

Olbermann argued a highly debatable point - that Fox News was much more on board with the Bush administration than MSNBC currently is with President Barack Obama.

"Other than the previous administration and in much greater degree. If we're going to -- if we're going to talk about this, as you point out, that -- those last eight years were attempts to manipulate where they could not completely control. I mean, they controlled Fox News on it. Clearly, I mean, there's no argument about that. And then they went and proceeded to go after us particularly. This -- most of this occurred before your show went on the air. But, I mean, there were -- the abuse and the pressure behind the scenes stuff never let up. What the Obama people have done while, you know, really kind of cutting through the fog and not trying to be subtle at all is really kind of just raise an objection saying, ‘We don't think this is news.' They didn't say, ‘Hey, Major Garrett, you're not admitted here anymore.'"

But the White House has threatened to cut some access with Fox News. Aside from the White House putting out three high-ranking administration officials to publicly criticize Fox News, there have been direct attacks from President Barack Obama himself about Fox News, along with the White House's recent attempt to exclude Fox from the White House press pool. Olbermann failed to notice that in his anti-Fox tirade.

"'Hey, by the way, we're not going to let you do live shots from the White House. You're not going to be on the plane,' or any of these things. There's no attempt to silence them. There's an attempt to say, ‘You know what, this is dangerous because this is often a way by which nonsense stories get trumped up through the purely political conversation kind of paranoid shows, like Glenn Beck and Hannity and O'Reilly. They put out crazy stories or take obscure trivial ones, blow them up to gigantic proportions and then report the reaction to these stories in what are supposedly straight newscasts."

Olbermann blamed Fox News for pushing the story about corruption within ACORN - a legitimate news story that had some political repercussions for the administration.

"And that's the -- that's stage one of it. And stage two of it is, of course, they then take -- if you report on ACORN for 457 consecutive shows, every news organization in America is going to go, "Well, we didn't think this was any sort of story, maybe we're wrong. Let's look into. Let's do a story about why we didn't do a story." And suddenly, there's an ACORN story on the front page of several leading newspapers. And I think it's a -- it's a way to sort of bring in crap through the side door which is a secondary thing besides the obvious stuff that you see everyday on Fox."

Maddow argued they're not freezing out Fox altogether.

"Interesting to me that they're not saying they're going to freeze out Fox altogether. They said that they will still make people available to the Fox stations. They're not even ruling out making the president available to Fox at some point. But they're just going to treat them as if they're talk radio. And I think it's going to be interesting to see how that works out. Remember that -- given that President Bush was happy to invite right-wing talk radio into the White House quite that way."

However, you can't argue with the numbers. According to data compiled by the Fox News Channel and broadcasted on the Oct. 22 "Special Report with Bret Baier," Fox has often been overlooked when it comes to interviews with President Obama. NBC has conducted 12 interviews, CBS with 11 interviews, ABC conducting nine interviews and CNN with seven interviews. And Fox News? A total of two interviews.