What goes around comes around

Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews  have been removed from their positions as anchors in MSNBC’s coverage of election events.  As the NY Times says:

After months of accusations of political bias and simmering animosity between MSNBC and its parent network NBC, the channel decided over the weekend that the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host David Gregory would anchor news coverage of the coming debates and election night. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will remain as analysts during the coverage.

A black eye for two sexist reporters?  Yes and  No.  Yes, they are sexists and each has a black eye (one imagines), but they don’t seem to have gotten it qua sexists.  Rather,

Executives at the channel’s parent company, NBC Universal, had high hopes for MSNBC’s coverage of the political conventions. Instead, the coverage frequently descended into on-air squabbles between the anchors, embarrassing some workers at NBC’s news division, and quite possibly alienating viewers.

And the so-called reporting was viewed as highly biased.  Still, even the NY Times labels Olbermann’s daily show a “liberal classic.”  That’s just a bit puzzling, since Olbermann figured big in the sexist attacks on Clinton.  See here, for example.  But, then, perhaps the sexism didn’t really exist.  Or really matter.  Certainly, if one takes Olbermann’s posting on DailyKos as an indication of what’s involved in being a liberal icon, then Hillary bashing is just part of the game, even to the point of saying she is not really a democrat.

15 thoughts on “What goes around comes around

  1. Olbermann figured big in the sexist attacks on Clinton. See here, for example.

    Eh? I watched the linked video, and it showed Olbermann’s legitimate criticisms interspersed with sexist remarks from other television personalities. What is this — guilt by association?

  2. I’m surprised, Richard, at your reaction. The first bit has Olbermann’s somewhat scornful reaction to Clinton’s tearing up and criticizing on the same day. You think that it’s legitimate to be negative about her for not showing the same reaction to everything?

    Would one expect the same description of a male politician? E.g., “On a day on which Obama both praised workers in Ohio and criticized McCain, he went on to…”?

    So exhausting and unlady like to have all these reactions in public!

  3. Huh, I must’ve missed the first sentence as I was adjusting my volume. I agree that particular criticism doesn’t make much sense. But “figured big in the sexist attacks”? Surely more is needed.

  4. Richard,

    You are right to point out that two incidents don’t show that he was significantly sexist in his comments. They are illustrations, not proofs.

  5. Richard, they put together two different episodes from Olbermann. There are a couple of indications that it is two, but I’m sympathetic to not wanting to watch it very closely!

  6. I meant, what else in the episodes (besides the ‘tearing up’ thing) qualifies as a sexist incident? Most of what they included from Olbermann looked to me like plain non-sexist criticism of Clinton.

  7. Sorry, Richard, I wrote a comment to address that issue, but I guess I must not have have tapped “submit.” I saw Olbermann give the opinion that this was from – it was the last time I watched him – and the whole thing was much more fresh when I saw the clip first time around. Here’s the context described:

    it was, as Huffington post says, a doozy. I thought it was an extreme, way over the top attack on Clinton’s competence, moral character, etc. It was presumptuous, etc. Actually, his opinion pieces about the troops Bush has seen to their death treated Bush with more respect, I thought.

  8. Hi, JJ– I have to admit to uncertainties about Olbermann. I shared his anger at Clinton’s response to Ferraro’s comments, which I thought were appalling. I don’t think it takes sexism to be angry at her for that. But when I watched his commentary I did think it was too much, and it did in fact make me stop watching Olbermann. And I did, in conversations with family and friends, question Clinton’s loyalty to the Democratic party. I thought that saying McCain was more qualified than Obama was something no Democrat should do– rightly expecting it would appear in Republican ads if Obama was the nominee. Was there sexism involved in my doing that? Maybe there was– as a firm believer in unconscious bias, I know that introspection is not a good guide here. But just as I hesitate to absolve myself of sexism, I hesitate to be confidently accuse Olbermann of sexism (rather than simply excessive anger, source uncertain). And this worries me. We’re now entering a time when accusations of sexism will be made by the Republicans every time a Democrat cricitises Palin (or even McCain), and it becomes very important to have clear and defensible views on exactly what is an instance of sexism. And I find myself without celar judgments for a range of crucial cases.

  9. Hi Jender, I think I agree with some important underlying points: that on specific incidences, we need to be very careful, particularly since the label “sexist” is getting used by the Republicans now to defend Palin. I think, though, that Olbermann showed up in these films in part because he has a record to tips the scales in one’s interpretation. Or so I assume. Though I did stop watching him, I saw a number of quotes from him that seemed pretty bad, and he did end up cited quite a bit in the big left wing blog upheaval as Hillary’s supporters found place after place extremely hostile.

    I’m about less clear about the criticism of her on the Ferraro incident; certainly appropriate, but perhaps a bit of the pot calling the kettle black (so to speak, and in a different sense). Part of my reservations have to do with what seems to me the much more egregious and very foolish silence on the Democratic Party’s (and Obama’s part) on the repeated trashing of HIllary in the media. It is true that the woman who called her a monster retired from his campaign, but he never seemed to take on the topic of sexism in his supporters.

    I think that was foolish of him, because it was a good chance to pick up the topic of bias in voting, and if he’s done in, I’m afraid that will be a big factor.

  10. I was reminded of this old thread by the NYT headline: “McCain Lauds and Attacks Obama in Same Day

    I guess the lameness of the press is pretty general after all. [cf. ‘Would one expect the same description of a male politician? E.g., “On a day on which Obama both praised workers in Ohio and criticized McCain, he went on to…”?‘]

  11. Isn’t thislatter case quite different? That is, one is a case of praising x and blaming y, while the other is a case of praising x and blaming x? In one the person is criticised for having two attitudes on one day, while the other raises a question about consistency?

  12. But there’s clearly nothing inconsistent about praising someone in one respect and then criticizing them for something completely different. So although your imagined case is even more egregious, it’s the same kind of mistake going on here: a failure to appreciate that different reactions may be appropriate in response to different stimuli.

  13. Richard, it is not logically inconsistent, but it might well be politically odd or inconsistent.

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