I have been a talk-radio host in the five major metropolitan markets of San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore – for more than three decades.
I first began as a White House correspondent in the last year of Richard Nixon’s presidency.
As such, I have been the recipient of a great deal of criticism and disagreement. But, this comes with the territory – although along with much kindness.
I will say that some of the strangest and bitterest denunciation of me that I have ever seen came from an MSNBC on-air performer named Keith Olbermann.
On May 16, Mr. Olbermann wrote an MSNBC commentary that was headlined “The resignation of Scott McClellan.”
In this commentary, Olbermann wrote the following:
“I smell something – and it ain’t a copy of the Quran sopping wet from being stuck in a toilet in Guantanamo Bay. It’s the ink drying on Scott McClellan’s resignation, and in an only partly imperfect world, it would be drifting out over Washington, and imminently.
“For that tasteless, soul-less conclusion that deaths in Afghanistan should be lain at the magazine’s doorstep – Scott McClellan should resign. The expiration on his carton full of blank-eyed bully-collaborator act passed this afternoon as he sat reeling off those holier-than-thou remarks. Ah, that’s what I smelled.”
At the daily White House news briefing on May 20, I asked Deputy White House Press Secretary Trent Duffy:
“MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann wrote about Scott’s alleged letter of resignation. You can assure us that the president regards this as being as asinine and abusive as the network bullying of Scott, can’t you?”
This question apparently enraged Mr. Olbermann. For he wrote:
“The headline for the blog entry from Monday night – you can read it below – is “The resignation of Scott McClellan.” But anybody who doesn’t see the hypothetical nature of the reference (I was calling for his resignation, not saying he’d submitted it) either didn’t read the piece, or doesn’t read English frequently.”
I both read the piece and I read English frequently.
I read in an Olbermann column headlined “The resignation of Scott McClellan” that Olbermann could “smell the ink drying on Scott McClellan’s resignation” which, with the title, is surely an allegation that McClellan had in fact resigned.
Later in his column, Olbermann wrote: “Scott McClellan should resign” – which is a clear contradiction to the column’s title and what Olbermann wrote that he had smelled.
None of my questions of Scott’s assistant, Trent Duffy, ever stated that Scott had in fact resigned. I was simply trying to get clarification from the White House that what Olbermann claimed to be able to smell – and later added that he wanted – did not exist.
My attempt to clarify was apparently so anguishing to Olbermann that he tried to lacerate me with the following, among other denunciations:
- He claimed I am inclined to walk into airplane propellers and to attach my tongue to a metal pole in midwinter.
- He wrote that after I invoked his name at the White House press briefing, I “promptly pulled the radio into the bathtub with him (me) while trying to change the station.” (Sorry, no bathtubs in the White House briefing room – even though it was once a swimming pool.)
- He wrote that I should be thrown a bone, because people were laughing at me rather than with me. (He did not mention how many were laughing at me – or what would happen to the world if everyone who was ever laughed at gave up their convictions.)
- He wrote that I “was hoping to be able to get some fresh meat to throw at his listeners or his readers, the ones who don’t realize he has no idea what he’s talking about.”
- He wrote: “Here he hoped to get McClellan’s assistant to call me ‘asinine’ or to disparage my or my news organization’s reporting in some way.”
This is an absolutely astounding bill of particulars from this TV network character who seems to be terribly sensitive.