On MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann reported that The Gazette newspaper of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has dropped the column of right-wing pundit Ann Coulter because of complaints from conservatives, and that Louisiana's Shreveport Times is considering a similar move. Olbermann also named Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera and ABC host John Stossel among the recipients of that day's "Worst Person in the World" awards.
On the July 14 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann reported that right-wing pundit "Ann Coulter has been knocked off the pages of one of the heartland's better newspapers because of complaints by conservatives," who "felt their views were being misrepresented." Olbermann interviewed Doug Neumann, the opinion page editor of The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about the newspaper's decision to discontinue publishing Coulter's syndicated column. Olbermann said, "History tells us ... that political lightning rods are rarely vanquished by their foes, but usually instead by their friends," adding that the Shreveport Times in Louisiana has asked its readers if it too "should drop the Coultergeist column and replace her with another conservative writer."
Also on the July 14 edition of Countdown, Olbermann announced a "tie for the silver" in his nightly "Worst Person in the World" contest, giving the title to Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera for suggesting, as Media Matters for America documented, that a mob hitman murder Air America radio host Jerry Springer or MSNBC host Maury Povich instead of targeting Rivera. Olbermann said of the Fox News hosts: "Boys, seriously, putting all our issues aside for a minute, you two are the last ones in this industry who should be putting the ideas into people's heads that it might be funny to rub out a television personality." Olbermann then awarded ABC News 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel the "Worst Person in the World" after Stossel advocated the sale of organs on the open market, as Media Matters also noted. Olbermann asked: "John, are you sure you don't need an organ transplant, like maybe a new brain?"
From the July 14 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: History tells us -- in fact, it grabs us, shakes us, and writes it in crayon backwards on our foreheads so we can read it to ourselves in the mirror -- that political lightning rods are rarely vanquished by their foes, but usually instead by their friends. It was the Senate that finally neutered Senator Joe McCarthy. It was not the members of Richard Nixon's enemies list who did him in, but his own staffers. And infamous '30s commentators, Boake Carter and Father Coughlin were not undone by the communists they imagined, but instead when they started making up the news and scapegoating minority groups.
Thus, in our third story tonight, perhaps it should not be such a surprise, but Ann Coulter has been knocked off the pages of one of the heartland's better newspapers because of complaints by conservatives. The Connecticut screech, also in trouble in Louisiana. There, the editorial page editor of the Shreveport Times asked its readers if that paper should drop the Coultergeist column and replace her with another conservative writer. Craig Durrett wrote that he felt "[s]he is more about entertainment and self-promotion, understanding that shock and outrage translate into publicity that feeds into her quest for media airtime and column space."
The Shreveport paper should make its final decision in a few weeks. The Gazette of Cedar Rapids has already made its call, dropping Coulter after 14 to 15 months of having published her column, not because liberal readers were complaining about her, but rather because conservatives felt their views were being misrepresented. She'll be replaced with another conservative voice, that of David Limbaugh.
Doug Neumann of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, one of the men behind the decision to drop Coulter, he's the opinion page editor of the paper and he joins us now. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
NEUMANN: Sure, glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: So, what exactly did your conservative readers say to you that led your paper to cancel Coulter's column?
NEUMANN: You know, the complaints started coming in, and I think it was really a matter of her style, sort of starting to distract from her substance. They just didn't think that she was a very good representation of their views anymore. We had heard complaints from liberals all along, as one would expect, but it was those complaints from conservatives that really got us thinking about whether it was time to make a change in the lineup.
OLBERMANN: I assume Ms. Coulter would respond, these were probably liberal plants, people pretending to be conservatives. Did you check to make sure that those complaints were coming from the source they claimed to be?
NEUMANN: You know, there's a big difference between national news media and local community journalism. We know our readers here in eastern Iowa. Many that we talk to regularly, many that we see face to face. We know who these people are. It wasn't merely anonymous e-mails. They were readers of the Gazette, readers that we were familiar with. And clearly, we believed them, we understood their point of view.
OLBERMANN: Boy, that sounds nice. Can you send them to us as well? That would be nice to deal with people like that again. The complaint in Shreveport is one that has sunk many a commentator, print or electronic, conservative or liberal, for 100 years, that the pieces were no longer about the world, they were about the writer. Did you sense that in this case, too?
NEUMANN: You know, that wasn't a big part of our decision at all. Again, she did a reasonable job of representing an extremely conservative point of view, a point of view that we think is important to have on the page, a point of view that we're going to have with David Limbaugh, and we also have with other conservative columnists. We run Kathleen Parker, we run Jonah Goldberg and others, so it is an important point of view, and she did represent that point of view for a time. So the substance of the column wasn't so much the decision as it was that the style and everything that she did sort of distracted from purely what was in the column.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything content-wise that was specific, either in that column or in the most recent book that added to this or was a tipping point to this? Is there one moment where you can say the tide turned?
NEUMANN: There wasn't for us. I don't know if there were for individual readers. There certainly -- the criticisms and the complaints got a lot more intense after the book came out, and there may have been specific passages that were of concern. For us it was really, it was the overall substance, the overall comments from readers and an overall decision by us that there were other things that we could do with our page that would add value for the readers.
OLBERMANN: Was there any reaction from her or from her syndicators?
NEUMANN: We haven't heard from her directly. I did see a website that alleged to have a quote from her. I'm not sure how credible that was. But, I don't know if she'll react to us here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or not.
OLBERMANN: Doug Neumann of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Great, thanks for your time tonight, sir. We appreciate it. Have a good weekend.
NEUMANN: Thanks a lot.
OLBERMANN: Tie for the Silver, Geraldo Rivera and Bill O discussing Rivera's claim that the Philadelphia mob had decided to have Geraldo Rivera killed. Rivera explained why it didn't happen, then O'Reilly said of the hit man, "Couldn't he have killed Jerry Springer?" Rivera responded, "I can name a couple of other people off the top of my head." Bill O topped him, "Yeah, I mean, Maury Povich."
Boys, seriously, putting all our issues aside for a minute, you two are the last ones in this industry who should be putting the idea into peoples' heads that it might be funny to rub out a television personality.
But our winner tonight, John Stossel of ABC, saying that instead of the waiting list system for organ transplants that we currently have, which more or less gives the organs out based on need and hope of recovery, that the organs for transplant should be sold. Quoting him, "The market figures out ways to make these things work," Stossel said, "Hot dogs don't spoil when we get to them." John, are you sure you don't need an organ transplant, like maybe a new brain?
John Stossel, today's "Worst Person in the World."