Bill O’Reilly-Keith Olbermann Feud Ends with a Corporate Handshake?

Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Rupert Murdock, and Jeff Immeldt (clockwise from top left)

Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Rupert Murdock, and Jeff Immeldt (clockwise from top left)

According to Brian Stelter, writing in the New York Times business section, it was FOX News director Roger Ailes who cooked up the original scheme to blunt Keith Olbermann’s withering criticism of Bill O’Reilly. The plan entailed O’Reilly and Glenn Beck aiming their barbs, not at Olbermann or his show Countdown on MSNBC, but at Olbermann’s boss at General Electric (MSNBC’s parent company) and its CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

It turned out Immelt had no stomach for the bad publicity O’Reilly and Beck were heaping on his corporation so he cut a deal with Rupert Murdoch agreeing to end the O’Reilly-Olbermann feud. The Murdoch-Immelt handshake agreement that enacted a “cease and desist” order to their two star anchors looks more like a corporate merger than anything having to do with journalism.

It was Murdoch of the media conglomerate News Corporation who chose the Republican strategist Ailes to head his FOX News division. When Murdoch hired him, the single most important achievement on Ailes’s resume was his co-authorship of the racist Willie Horton ad of the 1988 George H. W. Bush campaign. Since that fateful day in 1996 Ailes’s right-wing “news” outfit has become one of the most important sources of disseminating Republican talking points in American political discourse.

General Electric is responsible for catapulting Ronald Reagan’s early political career (GE even gave Reagan his own designer kitchen to show off the “fully electric home”). Later, when Reagan became president, GE paid ZERO taxes for several years. GE is also known for dumping carcinogenic PCBs in the Hudson River and lying about it, and receiving billions of dollars in no-bid military contracts (including contracts for the Iraq war). And it was GE that forced MSNBC to cancel Phil Donahue’s show because he was one of the only people on cable television who had the temerity to question George W. Bush’s bogus claims that Iraq possessed an arsenal of “weapons of mass destruction.” Both practically and ideologically there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Jeffrey Immelt’s General Electric .

Corporate honchos making back-room editorial decisions for the “news” subsidiaries they control? I’m not a professional reporter but I cannot help but think that that practice might not be the best thing for the integrity of journalism.

From the time the O’Reilly-Olbermann rivalry began the media frame from CNN, NPR, the New York Times, and even The Daily Show has constructed a false equivalency between O’Reilly (the Republican partisan) and Olbermann (the Democratic partisan). But that is an inaccurate narrative. Olbermann differs from O’Reilly in that he cares about truth and falsehood, and he understands the distinction between journalism and propaganda. Bill O’Reilly is a liar and a demagogue and a right-wing propagandist. Just do a quick Media Matters search under “Bill O’Reilly” and you won’t believe what you’ll find.


Keith Olbermann is one of the only cable television personalities who uses his allotted time on Countdown each night to trying to keep the record straight. Jeffrey Immelt, Rupert Murdoch, and Bill O’Reilly were the big winners in this corrupt bargain. The only thing Olbermann got from the episode was his integrity questioned by accusations he was a party to this tawdry “deal” struck between Wall Street titans and orchestrated by a Republican strategist.

Joseph Palermo

Originally published by The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author


  1. Anonymous says

    Personal opinion:
    No doubt Mr. Immelt received a great many complaints from other G.E. employees about Olberman and NBC. Should he care about those complaints?

    Mr. Immelt has been clear that G.E. walks hand-in-hand with the Obama administration on the biggest issues when he lectures. G.E. is now avowedly third way. O’Reilly brought the news to the public at large.

    Given G.E.’s roots and what it owes this nation, the present path of the company is absolutely shocking. Benjamin Franklin? Thomas Edison? Thomas Paine? Guess G.E.’s present leaders must think those fellows were simple-minded fools.

    Alas, the U.S. isn’t much of a priority for G.E. these days. Just ask ’em.

  2. Ted says

    O’Reilly has twice the intellect as Joseph Stalin, er Palermo on his best day. This hack from The Huffington Post (no less) is just another socialist/communist spouting his vitriol on that site and proclaiming it as fact. He cites “Media Matters” as a reputable source. That’s like using Wikipedia, where anything can be posted by anyone with an elementary knowledge of a keyboard. Elementary knowledge of anything else is not a prerequisite. As for Olberman, he has his nose so far up Hussien’s butt that he gives new meaning to brownnosing.

  3. DAO says

    We know which show Palermo watches. Obermann is the Michael Moore of TV. He doesn’t get his facts straight or lies to promote the liberal/Socialist agenda. I love how liberals think they are so open minded. It is funny. Truth is they are some of the scariest people I know. Obsessed with a crazy dream that under socialism we will live as one. They need to study their history.

    Also: I won’t even watch NBC’s pregame football show because that fool ruins that with his stupid comments.

  4. wes says

    Easy to see which side of the aisle you’re on JP. Obermann is a bitter, sarcastic man who will do or say anything to discredit the Republicans with his insane liberal ranting.
    The only news I’ve seen that is truly fair is O’Reilly, and his comments are consistently proven to be accurate. Continued misinformation from media people like yourself does nothing but cloud the truth for the average American, who at this point is realizing a vote ofr Obama was a mistake.
    Regarding the 2 shows, O’Reilly is so far ahead on ratings and audience size Olbermann may as well pack it in because hardly anyone listens to his nonsense anyway.

  5. Tom Palmer says

    One correction: Al Gore first brought up the Willie Horton thing. it may have been repeated, but it was a Democrat who first used it against Dukakis

  6. Sam@common sense says

    Are you kidding me, on taking Olbermans side? He never gives both sides of the story nor does he have on opposing points of view. I can’t believe you people don’t see that he leaves out the other side and maybe some truths. He does all this to fit his point of view. I watch both MSNBC and Fox and can say that Fox has a point of view about Washington that MSNBC does not. MSNBC protects at all cost their view of their boys in Washington. So don’t give me that crap about Olberman being a goody two shoes, doesn’t fly………

  7. Jack Washington says

    I am very disappointed that Keith Olbermann has been muted by Murdoch-Immelt deal. I only hope this doesn’t apply to other aspects of False News. F News is a caricature, an unbelievable nightmare of what media should be.

    • Nora Coryell says

      Yeah, but it was becoming pretty tiresome hearing about that blowhard night after night. There are bigger and better things for KO to talk about, and he is.

  8. Kevin Davis says

    “Bill O’Reilly is a liar and a demagogue and a right-wing propagandist”

    Please give examples where Mr. O’Reilly lied. Very easy to call someone a liar without anything to back up your assertion which is what you just did. Sean Hannity is a right wing propagandist. He attacks the Obama administration on his program every night just as Olbermann did with the Bush administration. O’Reilly does NOT engage in these tactics.

    “Just do a quick Media Matters search under “Bill O’Reilly” and you won’t believe what you’ll find”

    Media Matters? LOL!!!!! I’ll believe exactly what I’d find there.
    That’s a major left wing propaganda site and the fact that you just referenced them eliminates any credibility you might have had.

  9. says

    Deals made with the devil always end up as well as spitting in the wind. In the case of professional fearmongers and demagogues, nothing that anyone does or says will change their dishonesty, shamelessness, chutzpah, hubris or general sense of entitlement.

    Try talking to a dittohead. There is no wormhole large enough to slip them into the real universe. None. Go to a “tea party” and tell someone, anyone, that Obama just presided over the largest tax cut in our history, and you’ll be laughed out of the room.

    We need to keep the truth out there, frame it properly, and make sure that the word gets out to the independents who actually determine who is elected. Until we can get officials elected who are really willing to tear down the corrupt political system to its roots (maybe Russ Feingold is, but I can’t think of too many others), this ought to be our transitory goal.

    Alec Wisner


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