Keith Olbermann devoted an entire segment to responding to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's call for the replacement of Olbermann's show with one featuring Phil Donahue. Donahue previously hosted a show on MSNBC in the same 8 p.m. ET time slot as Olbermann's Countdown, which is also in the same time slot as O'Reilly's show, Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.
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MSNBC host Keith Olbermann devoted an entire segment of the February 24 edition of his show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, to responding to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's call for the replacement of Countdown with a show featuring Phil Donahue. Donahue previously hosted a show on MSNBC in the same 8 p.m. ET time slot as Olbermann's show, which is also in the same time slot as O'Reilly's show, Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. On February 23, O'Reilly called on viewers to demand that MSNBC bring back Donahue, claiming, "His [Donahue's] successor [Keith Olbermann], after three long years on the air, actually has fewer viewers now than Donahue did when he left." O'Reilly later posted a petition on his website asking NBC Chairman Bob Wright (MSNBC is a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft) to "immediately bring Phil Donahue's show back at 8:00 PM EST before any more damage [to your network's ratings] is done." Olbermann and O'Reilly have a long-standing rivalry: In recent weeks, Olbermann has repeatedly honored O'Reilly with "Worst Person" awards during Countdown, while O'Reilly has responded, on several occasions, by asserting that MSNBC "is a true ratings disaster."
During the February 24 edition of Countdown, in response to O'Reilly's campaign, Olbermann aired a number of video clips from past Countdown editions and commented on several of the claims in O'Reilly's petition. After airing portions of the February 23 edition of The Factor, during which O'Reilly called for Donahue's reinstatement, Olbermann read the petition aloud and responded to sections in it, remarking, for example:
OLBERMANN: The median age of viewers of this program [Countdown] is 58.7. The median age of viewers of Mr. O'Reilly's program: 68.6. If you want to be concerned about well-being, Bill, be concerned about the odds of your viewers living into next week.
At one point, Olbermann read from the petition, "It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice" -- and stopped to interject, "Don't say 'grave.' Fifty percent of your viewers are over the age of 68 and a half."
Olbermann also challenged O'Reilly's claim that Countdown's ratings in a key demographic were lower than Donahue's had been three years earlier. After Olbermann read the petition's statement that "Phil Donahue, whose ratings at the time of his show's cancellation three years ago were demonstrably stronger than those of the current host [Olbermann]," he said, "January 2003 and February of 2003, in what Fox calls the money demo, Phil averaged 152,000 viewers a night. In January and February of this year, we're averaging 157,000 viewers a night." He then added, "Oh, Bill, you made a factual error. Now, you have to ignore another one of those."
Following his discussion on the petition, Olbermann said, "Still, I don't know why he's really mad at me," and asked, "Bill? What did I ever do to you?" Olbermann then continued, "The producers tell me I've occasionally reported on some of the stuff you've done on this show here and that we should probably review some of those things, but I can't remember any of it, except -- oh." At that point, Olbermann aired a compilation of clips which mocked O'Reilly, including clips from past editions of Countdown, such as one that featured Olbermann bestowing several "Worst Person" awards on O'Reilly; a clip of an appearance by O'Reilly on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; and a clip of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) on the House floor reading a line from a poem that attacked O'Reilly's claim that there was a "war" on Christmas.
Concluding the segment and introducing the next story on the show, Olbermann said: "OK. Then there's the story of the brain-damaged unknown white male," then added, "we just did that."
From the February 24 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: How does this happen? Every time? I'm Dr. Pavlov. I ring a bell. Ted Baxter salivates.
Our third story on the Countdown, Bill O'Reilly has launched an on-air campaign and an online petition to get this newscast canceled and replaced by Phil Donahue.
Happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again.
[begin video clip]
O'REILLY: Time now for "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day." Bring back Phil Donahue. It was three years ago this month that MSNBC fired Mr. Donahue for low ratings. We felt bad for Phil. They didn't give him much of a chance.
Phil actually said his firing was a mistake, and he was right. His successor, after three long years on the air, actually has fewer viewers now than Donahue did when he left. That is a disaster.
So, in the interest of fairness, we have a petition on BillOReilly.com to bring Phil back. If enough of you sign the petition, we'll send it over to NBC and hopefully, Phil Donahue will get the chance he deserves. Let's all go to bat for our pal, Phil.
[end video clip]
OLBERMANN: So, here's the petition to NBC chairman, Bob Wright.
"Dear Chairman Wright, we, the undersigned, are becoming increasingly concerned about the well-being of MSNBC and in particular, note the continuing ratings failure of the program currently airing weeknights on that network at 8:00 PM EST."
The median age of viewers of this program is 58.7. The median age of viewers of Mr. O'Reilly's program: 68.6. If you want to be concerned about well-being, Bill, be concerned about the odds of your viewers living into next week.
"It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice"--
Don't say "grave." Fifty percent of your viewers are over the age of 68 and a half.
"It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice has been done to the previous host for that time slot, Phil Donahue, whose ratings, at the time of his show's cancellation three years ago, were demonstrably stronger than those of the current host."
Let me see this. Hold on. January 2003 and February of 2003, in what Fox calls the money demo, Phil averaged 152,000 viewers a night. In January and February of this year, we're averaging 157,000 viewers a night. Oh, Bill, you made a factual error. Now, you have to ignore another one of those.
"Therefore, in an effort to rescue MSNBC from the ratings basement and to restore the honor and dignity of Mr. Donahue, who was ignobly removed as host three years ago, we ask that you immediately bring back Phil Donahue's show at 8:00 PM EST before any more damage is done."
When he says damage, of course, he means his ratings dropped 20 percent last year and another six percent this year, and Countdown's have gone up another 21 percent this year.
Still, I don't know why he's really mad at me. Bill? What did I ever do to you?
The producers tell me I've occasionally reported on some of the stuff you've done on this show here and that we should probably review some of those things, but I can't remember any of it, except -- oh.
OLBERMANN: And Bill O'Reilly is at it again.
None other than the big giant head himself.
From Oddball, the definition thereof: Bill O'Reilly.
Now I can remove this stupid mask. Tito, hand me a loofah.
O'REILLY: I'm a stupid guy. And I'm -- and every guy listening knows how that is.
OLBERMANN: The big giant head again, explaining to his radio audience that we won the Second World War because of spanking.
Bill O'Reilly about women just talking dirty with some guy and it would be no -- oh, yeah -- loofah.
GROUP CHANTING: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!
GROUP CHANTING: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!
OLBERMANN: You're damn right, I'm serious. Would I have gotten this giant prop check made if I was not serious?
Apparently, you have him to thank for the recent minor drop in gas prices. He has told an interviewer: "I have five guys inside the five major oil companies. They got scared because of my reporting and reporting of some others. They said, 'Uh-oh'." Thanks, Bill.
DINGELL: Wait. We need a distraction, something divisive and wily, a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.
OLBERMANN: You know this whole attack on Christmas nonsense that he made up? The fantasy that you can't say "Merry Christmas," but you can only say "Happy Holidays;" the thing designed to stir up religious hatred and paranoia in this country?
Guess what they're selling over at the Fox News online store: the Fox News Holiday Ornament and The O'Reilly Factor Holiday Ornament.
O'REILLY: The world could blow the hell up, he'd be giggling. "How many people are dead in Katrina? How can we make fun of it?" That's what you do.
STEWART: You know, I will say -- I will say this: We do add insult to injury.
O'REILLY: You do.
STEWART: But --
O'REILLY: See? He's an honest man.
STEWART: But --
O'REILLY: He's an honest man.
STEWART: You add injury.
O'REILLY: I add injury?
You want to be your own country, go right ahead. And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, "Look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up -- blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."
OLBERMANN: Quoting, "You can have a militia that's a rainbow coalition armed with spatulas and the basic training will be in the Haight. OK, we'll have it right on the Castro Street. March up and down. Since they are so good at parades," unquote.
So, Bill, you've now insulted all the gay people, too. Terrific.
As a public service, I'm going to read portions of his remarks and then translate them into what he's actually saying.
"Talking Points is troubled by the behavior of NBC, which cheap-shots Fox News on a regular basis and has been doing so for some time."
When we quote your own words back to you about how the Catholic Church was out to get Christmas or how we should let Al Qaeda attack San Francisco, they must seem like cheap shots.
"We hope Robert Wright will right the situation, and believe he has the power to do it. But perhaps we're wrong about Wright."
Bill made a funny.
Bill O'Reilly, today's Worst Person in the World.
Today's Worst Person in the World!
Today's Worst Person in the World.
Today's Worst Person in the -- you know the rest.
O'REILLY: This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again.
OLBERMANN: Don't you tell me it's over. I'll tell you if it's over.
OLBERMANN: OK. Well, maybe I have occasionally mentioned him. Well, now, I feel bad.
So, maybe, I understand Mr. O'Reilly's petition to get me fired and replaced by Phil Donahue. And then there's that sense of inter-network camaraderie and respect that he once mentioned on the air. So, what the heck?
Mr. O'Reilly has been good enough to start a grassroots movement, and as Leslie Nielsen once noted, "There's nothing like a good movement," which you already know if you've seen Bill's show.
So, let me start the ball rolling here. I'll sign that petition. Let's see. Put in the e-mail address. Good. The 'K' is broken on this typewriter. All right. We'll just put that in. OK. That's close enough. Not like they're going to write me back or anything. Yeah.
Does this mean that the MSN part of our company doesn't exist any more? Keith Olbermann.
You know, as a bonus, if you fill out this form, you get three days warning any time Homeland Security puts out a terror alert. Did you know that? Plus 20 percent off at Dave's Discount House of Falafels.
All right, just put in the state. And we've signed -- signed it here. Does it still work? Well, it's just -- it's like -- it will take, like, 10 minutes. But as far as I'm concerned, we're all done. Terrific.
Now, we're all having a good laugh, and we're all having good fun, but seriously, I know that NBC stands firmly behind this program, from the chairman, Mr. Wright, all the way through my loyal and gifted staff to my colleagues on other MSNBC shows, on-air and off. And that none of them would ever support this nefarious petition to take Countdown off and put Donahue -- why are they all lined up? Why are they all lined up in front of that computer? That's the -- that's the Web -- that's the petition. Tucker! No.
That's Dennis Horgan. He used to work here. That's Izzy Povich. She's the executive producer. At least she was, as of about 8.
Dan Abrams. Ah, come on! Tina Cohen, she's from England. It doesn't matter. Cordic. He's the producer of the show. Get back in the control room!
Oh, that's pretty funny. She's the executive producer of Rita's show. I know where she works.
That's very funny. Former Fox employee; former MSNBC employee.
Taking a long time there with that computer, pal.
OK. Then there's the story of the brain-damaged unknown white male -- we just did that. Oh, this is another one. It's a new documentary about a man who struggles to rebuild his life after being hit with amnesia. The questions tonight about whether any or all of it is true.