Monday, November 08, 2010
November 5, 2010
Interview with KEITH OLBERMANN
by DEBORAH SOLOMON
New York Times
Two days before his suspension from MSNBC, the anchor talked about his partisanship.
At his Rally to Restore Sanity, Jon Stewart complained about the shrieking tone of cable news. Were you watching when a montage juxtaposed footage from your news show with that of Glenn Beck’s?
I saw that. I was sitting at home, with my notebooks for the election, in that Saturday haze that anybody who does five shows is still in until the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. I was thinking: That’s odd. I wouldn’t think of myself in those terms. Why is my videotape there?
He characterized MSNBC as the lefty version of Fox News.
To present all this as the same is both unfair and injurious to the political system at the moment. One of the big flaws now is that there is all this noise on the right. When I yell there is a reason for it. There is a political and factual discernment behind it. I am not doing it gratuitously.
You wrote on Twitter that Stewart had jumped the shark. Are you suggesting his show is in decline?
I said he jumped a small shark. If he believes he has no political viewpoint, that’s ludicrous. For him to now say, ‘‘I’m not in the media, I’m not poised in this world of political expression, I never take gratuitous shots at people or go over the top and I’m not particularly pointed in one direction,’’ each of those things was ludicrous.
But two days later you seemed to have softened, announcing on your show that you were abandoning a popular and vitriolic segment called "Worst Person in the World.’’
At least temporarily but probably permanently.
Have you ever been a guest on Jon Stewart’s show?
No. I was invited in 2003 or 2004, within the first year of my show. We were still in Secaucus, N.J., so to do the show I would have had to have taken the whole day off at that point, and they wouldn’t let me at MSNBC. I will say that there was never another invitation, and I’m not sure why.
Is it fair to describe you as the first left winger to express anger as a television host? Fury used to be the province of right wingers, until that day in 2006 when you delivered a tirade against Donald Rumsfeld.
I once had a conversation with the man who is now the vice president when he was still in the Senate, who asked me for advice about how to turn anger into righteous inspiration.
Joe Biden took you to lunch to ask you for tips on getting angry?
He said, ‘‘I just come across like I’m angry and out of control, and you seem to focus it and make it look useful and expressive.’’
It’s certainly true that Democrats have been criticized for not getting angry enough and wimping out. Do you think President Obama lacks vitriol?
Now we will have Mitch McConnell saying you need to repeal health care reform, you need to defund health care reform. This is a freaking war out there, and it is to me somewhat unrealistic to approach it any other way. I’m not saying that President Obama should throw off the dignity of the office and start going in and head-butting opponents.
Your new book, ‘‘Pitchforks and Torches,’’ is dedicated to your father, an architect who died this year. Was he as devoted to the Yankees as your late mother, a regular presence at the stadium?
My mother was the real fan. My dad — literally we discussed this within three weeks before he died — was mad at the Yankees for trading away his favorite players in 1949 or 1950. Steve Souchock and Snuffy Stirnweiss.
Should we know them?
Neither was famous when I was a kid. Who was Souchock? I was like, ‘‘Dad, he hit .203.’’ He said: ‘‘It doesn’t matter. He was my favorite player.’’
What do you say to critics who find you smug?
I don’t know. I don’t have a good working definition of smug.
Do you think you have an anger-management problem?
No, not at all. That’s another thing that would have come to the surface long ago in television if it was actually clinical in any way. No, I’ve worked for people with anger-management issues. I am a happy amateur on the subject.
INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.