8.04.2009

Keith Olbermann Addresses Richard Wollfe's Corporate Lobbying Ties

First I like Richard Wolffe... a lot. But, news that the regular Countdown guest and recent fill-in for Keith is a consultant for a corporate communications firm run by former Bush communications directer, Dan Bartlett, news that was never disclosed during any of his appearances, was very disconcerting.

Here's Glenn Greenwald exposing the news:

....former Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe was a guest-host on MSNBC's Countdown while Keith Olbermann is on vacation. When Olbermann is there, Wolffe is a very frequent guest on Countdown, where he is called an "MSNBC political analyst" and comments on political news. All of this, despite the fact that Wolffe left Newsweek last March in order to join "Public Strategies, Inc.," the corporate communications firm run by former Bush White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, its President and CEO.

Having Richard Wolffe host an MSNBC program -- or serving as an almost daily "political analyst" -- is exactly tantamount to MSNBC's just turning over an hour every night to a corporate lobbyist. Wolffe's role in life is to advance the P.R. interests of the corporations that pay him, including corporations with substantial interests in virtually every political issue that MSNBC and Countdown cover. Yet MSNBC is putting him on as a guest-host and "political analyst" on one of its prime-time political shows. What makes that even more appalling is that, as Ana Marie Cox first noted, neither MSNBC nor Wolffe even disclose any of this.

This is a conflict so severe that it's incurable by disclosure: who wouldn't realize that you can't present paid corporate hacks as objective political commentators? But the fact that they don't even bother to disclose that just serves to illustrate how non-existent is the line between corporate interests and "news reporting" in the United States [...]

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WEll, last night, during an announcement from Keith Oblermann through his DKos account about his upcoming special comment for that night's COuntdown, he had this to day about the news:
As to Richard Wolffe I can offer far less insight. I honor Mr. Greenwald's insight into the coverage of GE/NewsCorp talks, and his reporting on Richard's other jobs. I must confess I was caught flat-footed. I do not know what the truth is; my executive producer and I have spent the last two months dealing with other things (see above) but what appears to be the truth here is certainly not what Richard told us about his non-news job.

I am confident his commentary to this point has not been compromised - he has been an insightful analyst and a great friend to this show - but until we can clarify what else he is doing, he will not be appearing with us. I apologize for not being able to prevent this unhappy set of circumstances from developing.

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Richard Wolffe is a good journalist & a seasoned professional who has contributed immensely to Countdown -- and for his association with a corporate lobbying firm to not be disclosed by him, whether or not he did anything fishy - is surprising.. and upsetting.

This isn't like when Countdown/Keith stopped employing WaPo gossip whore, Dana Milbank. I hope Keith is able to work something out and for the two of them to discuss it -- in a Countdown Segment -- in the near future.

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