Inspired by a pro-Christmas resolution voted on in Congress earlier in the day, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted an entire segment of Thursday's Countdown show to attacking FNC personalities for conveying their concerns about the word "Christmas" being driven out of the public eye, declaring that it was a "fictional controversy concocted to drive the ratings and stuff the wallets of a couple of cable fat heads who do quasi newscasts." The Countdown host then promoted the anti-conservative views of Democratic Congressman John Dingell by spending over two minutes displaying footage of the Congressman reading a poem in which Dingell not only attacked Bill O'Reilly and Fox News for "concocting" the controversy, but also made other attacks on Congress from the left.
Olbermann opened the segment : "We readily admit to making things up sometimes here on Countdown. Of course, we always emphasize that we have made them up because we're not just honest about it. We're also smug about it. But when a fictional controversy concocted to drive the ratings and stuff the wallets of a couple of cable fat heads who do quasi newscasts makes it all the way to the government, then we must protest." After quoting the resolution in question, Olbermann then introduced Dingell's poem "expressing his feelings about House Resolution 579 and his feelings about the big giant head [referring to O'Reilly] who started this imaginary war."
Countdown staff added graphics and clips of O'Reilly to the clips of Dingell reading his poem. At one point, they mocked O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter by displaying their photos side-by-side with reindeer antlers painted on their heads, with a red nose painted on Hannity, and with an eyepatch painted over one of Coulter's eyes.
After the Dingell poem was finished, just before bringing Dingell on board for an interview, Olbermann mistakenly, and smugly, remarked that, "after 40 minutes of debate on that Christmas resolution, the House decided to postpone further proceedings on the motion. I'm sure it will be the first thing on the agenda come January." But moments later, after asking Dingell, "Could this actually turn up on the floor again after the new year? Is more time going to be wasted on this?" Dingell informed him that the resolution had actually already been passed overwhelmingly today, driving Olbermann to sigh in disgust.
Olbermann later declared that because the Congressman had mentioned O'Reilly in his poem that he had "endeared [himself] to our staff permanently," and asserted that "Obviously, the real problems of society are a little too complicated for him to deal with, so he and poor John Gibson have fixated on this thing." Olbermann then wondered, "Would it surprise you, sir, that as they have warned us about this rush to change ‘Merry Christmas' into ‘Happy Holidays,' that the biggest transgressor in the area might be Fox News itself? I mean, they sold O'Reilly Christmas decorations and called them 'holiday ornaments' for your 'holiday tree.' And instead of a Christmas party, this year their parent company has just held a holiday party? Did you know about that?"
Right after the interview with Dingell, as he transitioned into a story about a man involved in a Christmas hoax, Olbermann referred to the "War on Christmas" controversy as a "scam" as he introduced the next story: "Speaking of Christmas-related scams, it seemed perfectly above board when on December 2 we made Andy Park our number two newsmaker of that day. ..."
Below is a complete transcript of relevant portions from the Thursday December 15 Countdown:
Keith Olbermann: "We readily admit to making things up sometimes here on Countdown. Of course, we always emphasize that we have made them up because we're not just honest about it. We're also smug about it. But when a fictional controversy concocted to drive the ratings and stuff the wallets of a couple of cable fat heads who do quasi newscasts makes it all the way to the government, then we must protest. Our third story in the Countdown, run for your lives. The 'War on Christmas' has reached Capitol Hill. Congress chose to spend part of one of its last days before the holiday break debating Resolution 579 offered by Mrs. Davis of Virginia, Mr. Bartlett of Maryland, Mr. Goode and Mr. Jones of North Carolina, a proposal, quote, 'Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected,' and suggesting that the House, quote, 'one, recognize the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas, two, strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas, and, three, expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions.' The ridiculousness proved all too much for one Congressman, John Dingell of Michigan, who used his time on the floor to read a little poem expressing his feelings about House Resolution 579 and his feelings about the big giant head who started this imaginary war."
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), appearing on the House floor: "'Twas a week before Christmas and all through the House, no bills were passed about which Fox News could grouse."
A Fox News Christmas ornament was shown hanging from a Christmas tree superimposed next to Dingell on-screen.
Dingell: "Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer, so vacations in St. Bart's soon should be near."
A graphic of stock numbers running across screen with a cartoon monster in the background were shown as Dingell referred to "tax cuts for the wealthy," followed by a clip of people lying on a beach as Dingell referred to "vacations."
Dingell: "Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds while visions of school and homes danced in their heads. In our, in Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan. And nuclear weapons are being built in Iran. Gas prices shot up. Consumer confidence fell. Americans feared we're in a fast track to, well? Wait. We need a distraction. Something divisive and wily."
A clip without sound from The O'Reilly Factor of O'Reilly pointing to himself with a pen was displayed very quickly as Dingell continued.
Dingell: "A fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly."
The show then switched from Dingell's speech to a few clips of O'Reilly speaking:
Bill O'Reilly clip #1, from The O'Reilly Factor: "The mail continues to pour in at a frightening rate about the Christmas controversy."
O'Reilly clip #2, from The O'Reilly Factor: "What many do oppose is banning the word 'Christmas.' Come on!"
O'Reilly clip #3, from The O'Reilly Factor: "Even Santa is appalled."
O'Reilly clip #4, from a debate with Al Franken: "Shut up!"
Dingell's speech then continued:
Dingell: "We will pretend Christmas is under attack. Hold a vote to save it and pat ourselves on the back! Silent Night, The First Noel, Away in the Manger. Wake up, Congress, they're in no danger.
Dingell: "This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go, from churches to homes to schools and yes, even Costco. What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy when this is the season to unite us with joy. At Christmas time we're taught to unite. We don't need a make-up reason to fight. So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, on those right-wing blogs."
While Dingell was referring to them, the screen displayed pictures of O'Reilly, Hannity and Coulter with reindeer antlers. Hannity had a red nose painted on his face, and Coulter had an eyepatch painted over one of her eyes.
Dingell: "You should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs. Tis the holiday season. Enjoy it a pinch. With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch? So to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight. A Merry Christmas to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, Happy Holidays. Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas."
Olbermann then returned and introduced his interview with Dingell:
Olbermann: "And the crack staff amplified in its presentation the Congressman's poem. But that was his work. And also, by the way, after 40 minutes of debate on that Christmas resolution, the House decided to postpone further proceedings on the motion. I'm sure it will be the first thing on the agenda come January. Representative Dingell joins me now from the Capitol. Thanks for some of your time tonight, sir. We appreciate it."
Dingell: "Thank you. Ho, ho, ho!"
Olbermann: "Indeed. As you pointed out in that poem, there are a few more important things that need to be sorted out in Congress before Christmas, than this imaginary attack on Christmas itself. How did Resolution 579 ever get to the floor, let alone take up 40 minutes of taxpayer time there?"
Dingell: "Well, I have no idea. Christmas should be in churches, in the hearts and souls of men. Christmas is with Easter, one of the two most precious and sacred days of Christians and Catholics and Protestants. It is a day that has special meaning to me where I attend mass and spend time with my family. And I don't think we need to defend it. What I think we need to do is to practice it."
Olbermann: "Have you seen any evidence that there's actually any kind of attack on it other than in the minds of the people who have been spreading this story for ratings and book sales?"
Dingell: "I found no weakness of Christmas or Christians in my house, my family, my friends, my constituents, the people I serve in southeast Michigan. It's a sacred time, and it's a time when, thank God, we celebrate the coming of the Lord, and we worship his doings and deeds, and we thank him for his salvation to us."
Olbermann: "Back for a moment to 579, it was only postponed. Nobody, there was no actual vote on it. Could this actually turn up on the floor again after the new year? Is more time going to be wasted on this?"
Dingell: "Oh, it was voted on today."
Olbermann sighed: "Ugh."
Dingell: "And it passed overwhelmingly."
Olbermann sighed again: "Ughhh."
Dingell: "And its defect is not that we are for or against Christmas. Christmas, thank God, is a reality for us. But Christmas also is something that we should celebrate in our hearts. And Christmas is very, very precious. There is no attack on Christmas."
Olbermann: "You mentioned in your poem, and thus endeared yourself to our staff permanently, Mr. O'Reilly of Fox News. Obviously, the real problems of society are a little too complicated for him to deal with, so he and poor John Gibson have fixated on this thing. Would it surprise you, sir, that as they have warned us about this rush to change "Merry Christmas" into "Happy Holidays," that the biggest transgressor in the area might be Fox News itself? I mean, they sold O'Reilly Christmas decorations and called them 'holiday ornaments' for your 'holiday tree.' And instead of a Christmas party, this year their parent company has just held a holiday party? Did you know about that?"
Dingell: "Well, I really can't make a good comment on that because it's always been Christmas trees, Christmas time, Christmas Day, Christmas ornaments, Christmas gifts. And it's a time of worship and happiness and prayer to the Lord, and it's a day on which we celebrate the coming of the dear Lord Jesus to save us and to rise again on Easter."
Olbermann: "Is there also not to it as well, sir, I've always thought this was a unique thing perhaps in human existence, that there is a, they're kind of hand in hand, there is a religious Christmas and a secular Christmas going on simultaneously. And the greatest thing about it is that you can participate in one or both or neither as you personally see fit."
Dingell: "Well, that's one of the great things about this country. You know, we're not just Christians or Catholics or Protestants or Jews or Muslims or whatever. We're everything. But we're one country. And we all love this country. And it gives us all extraordinary freedom for which we are all grateful to the Lord. And it does something else for us. It gives us the opportunity to worship our God in our own way and to find our own way to salvation."
Olbermann: "Representative John Dingell of Michigan, a Congressman and poet. Thanks greatly for your time tonight, and in advance, Merry Christmas."
Dingell: "Thank you. Ho ho ho!"
Olbermann: "Speaking of Christmas-related scams, it seemed perfectly above board when on December 2 we made Andy Park our number two newsmaker of that day. ..."