Olbermann Hits FNC Hosts, Compares Janet Parshall to "Al-Qaeda Show on Al-Jazeera"

On Tuesday night's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann launched his latest attacks on FNC's Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson, at one point saying O'Reilly is "one of those blissful idiots who can rationalize anything." Olbermann also indirectly called Gibson "functionally stupid" by contrasting him with O'Reilly, saying that O'Reilly "is not so functionally stupid as to deny things that are preserved on tape, which is what Mr. Gibson is doing." After playing a clip of Gibson from Janet Parshall's radio show in which Gibson mentioned the concept that religious people should tolerate people of other religions and leave any judgements as to whose religion is wrong to God, Olbermann took exception with some of Gibson's and Parshall's comments and compared the show to "an all-access Al-Qaeda show on Al-Jazeera talking about infidels." Olbermann ended up calling on Gibson to "leave the airwaves for good" because he has "forfeited his right to stay here."

Olbermann began the segment responding to complaints by O'Reilly and Gibson at being labelled "Worst Person in the World" during a regular segment of that name which appears on Olbermann's Countdown show. He first tackled O'Reilly because the FNC host recently attacked Olbermann, without naming him, as a "notorious smear merchant" during an edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Olbermann, who on numerous occasions has used his Countdown show to attack O'Reilly, took exception with this rare counterattack by the FNC host. Referring to The O'Reilly Factor's substantially larger audience than that of Olbermann's show, Olbermann quipped that "800 billion flies can't be wrong." Olbermann also referred to O'Reilly's comments as "a kind of 'self-loofahing' of congratulation for the nightly disaster his program means for the truth."

Olbermann then turned his attention to Gibson, whom the Countdown host claimed has "decided to try to destroy himself." In attacking Gibson, he proclaimed that O'Reilly is "one of those blissful idiots who can rationalize anything," but that "even he is not so functionally stupid as to deny things that are preserved on tape, which is what Mr. Gibson is doing."

Olbermann then played a clip from his December 2 Countdown show in which, during the regular "Worst Person in the World" segment, the Countdown host bestowed the dishonor on Gibson for comments Gibson made on the radio show of conservative host Janet Parshall on November 17. In the original comments, Gibson had mentioned to Parshall the concept that religious people should tolerate people of other religions and leave any judgements as to whose religion is wrong to God. Gibson: "I would think if somebody is going to be, have to answer for following the wrong religion, they're not going to have to answer to me. We know who they're going to have to answer to. And that's fine. Let'em. But in the meantime, as long as they're civil and behave, we tolerate the presence of other religions around us without causing trouble, and I think most Americans are fine with that tradition."

On the December 2 show, Olbermann had assigned the worst possible interpretation to Gibson's statement, claiming that Gibson literally meant that his was the only right religion, and attacked Gibson's use of the term "wrong religion." Olbermann had remarked that this is "the way a lot of these religious nutbag terrorists think," and claimed that Gibson was exhibiting "intolerance."

Back to the December 27 show, Olbermann was responding to complaints by Gibson that Olbermann had attacked him for "things I really did not say." This time, Olbermann at least played audio of a greater portion of the exchange on Parshall's show to help provide context, but the Countdown host still adhered to his original negative interpretation of Gibson's comments and remarked that "that phrase 'wrong religion' actually sounds worse in context," and claimed that "it's the same kind of misunderstanding and perversion of religion to which we react in horror when we see it in terrorists who have twisted religions for their own purposes. Might as well have been commentators on an all-access Al-Qaeda show on Al-Jazeera talking about infidels."

Olbermann then mocked Parshall for her paraphrase of the First Commandment, wondering, "Don't you get this creepy feeling of embarrassment when somebody trying desperately to be holier-than-thou promptly mis-quotes the Bible?" After quoting Parshall's paraphrase of the First Commandment, Olbermann lectured, "Actually, Miss Parshall, as any of us who've actually read the Bible know, the First Commandment is 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' That's not just a difference in pronouns. He's demanding exclusivity from those who believe in Him. Nothing in there saying other people can't serve other gods in which they believe."

This is not the first instance of Olbermann mocking religious people on his show. On the November 23 Countdown, Olbermann awarded the "Worst Persons in the World" dishonor to the founders of intelligent design theory, which he labelled as "nonsense," because corporate sponsors refused to donate to an exhibition devoted to Charles Darwin in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He then mocked those who "dreamt up intelligent design" as "the same people who brought you 'the world is flat, the earth is at the center of the universe, and let's burn a scientist at the stake today.'" (See NewsBusters posting for more details.)

Olbermann ended the segment calling on Gibson to resign: "I would hope John would now have the self-respect to acknowledge what he said and to leave the airwaves for good because between the remark and the denial, he has, sadly, forfeited his right to stay here."

A complete transcript of the segment from the December 27 Countdown show follows:

Keith Olbermann: "At the end of June, we began to devote about 90 seconds out of each news hour to a feature called the 'Worst Persons in the World.' The mighty and the anonymous alike have made the list. From Robert Novak to Scott Peterson to the Ronald McDonald who held up a Wendy's. And up until now, though well over 200 people have earned the dishonor, we've never had a complaint. Our number three story in the Countdown, we have a complaint. Evidently John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly of Fox News don't like being considered among the 'Worst Persons in the World,' even though they clearly are. O'Reilly first. He was funnier. Last week, the big giant head did some sort of year-end wrap-up of his rants and distortions. It was a kind of 'self-loofahing' of congratulation for the nightly disaster his program means for the truth."

Bill O'Reilly, from The O'Reilly Factor: "And speaking of disasters, our competitor at MSNBC is a notorious smear merchant. So far this month, December, the Factor's third rerun at 4 in the morning has beaten MSNBC's original 8:00 program more than 50 percent of the time. Unbelievable."

Olbermann: "Couple of things here. We never claimed O'Reilly's program doesn't draw vastly more viewers than does this one. To borrow a phrase, hey, 800 billion flies can't be wrong. But it is curious, isn't it, that he brands me a smear merchant, and yet instead of trying to refute just one of the hateful things we've quoted him as saying or doing, he instead turns to the ratings? That's probably because the only things we've smeared O'Reilly with have been his own quotes. To borrow another phrase, when you're as guilty as he is, change the subject."

Olbermann: "Unfortunately, I now have to change the subject to John Gibson. And this is greatly painful because I really don't know why he's decided to try to destroy himself. But he has. O'Reilly, after all, is one of those blissful idiots who can rationalize anything, that doing this enough usually results in a nervous breakdown is well-known, and his clock is clearly ticking in that regard. But even he is not so functionally stupid as to deny saying things that are preserved on tape, which is what Mr. Gibson is doing. Let me flash you back to the day he made the 'Worst Persons' list."

Olbermann, from the December 2 Countdown show: "But the winner, and this one comes with great personal pain because we were friends when he worked here and thereafter. John Gibson selling his new book about this phony baloney war on Christmas. John revealed a very ugly side to himself. He is one of those people who think all religions but his are mistaken. You know, the way a lot of these religious nutbag terrorists think. 'I would think,' Gibby said on a syndicated radio show, 'if somebody is going to be, have to answer for following the wrong religion, they're not going to have to answer to me. We know who they're going to have to answer to.' I'd tell you which religion John thinks is the only one that's right, but what's the difference? It's not the faith that's the issue. It's the intolerance. John Gibson, today's 'Worst Person in the World.'"

Olbermann, back on the December 27 Countdown show: "John first complained about that on his radio program, then he went to town on television. 'I find myself being misquoted or the actual words I've said taken way out of context in order to build outrage against me,' he said. 'I'm called,' he said, 'names like "fathead" and the "worst something or other" for things I really did not say. Today, one of my former colleagues repeated a misquote to justify saying some truly disgusting things about me. Condescendingly he tisk-tisked that he used to like me. I frankly doubt it. Otherwise, why would he be so willing to believe trash?' Well, John, I believed it because it's true, and it's on tape. I'm afraid John is, at best, suffering from amnesia. At worst, he's just flat-out pretending something never happened. John Gibson's remarks about religions being wrong and those who believe them having to answer for them came on a show hosted by a Janet Parshall, broadcast by Salem Radio Network on November 17, and the remarks are on tape. The Web site Media Matters for America has a transcript and an audio link, and I'm afraid there's no ambiguity whatsoever."

John Gibson, from Janet Parshall's show November 17: "The whole point of this is that the tradition, the religious tradition of this country is tolerance, and that the same sense of tolerance that's been granted by the majority to the minority over the years ought to go the other way, too. Minorities ought to have the same sense of tolerance about the majority religion, Christianity, that they've been granted about their religions over the years."

Janet Parshall: "Exactly. John, I have to tell you, let me linger for a minute on that word 'tolerance.' Because, first of all, the people who like to promulgate that concept are the worst violators. They cannot tolerate Christianity, as an example."

Gibson: "Absolutely. I know, I know that."

Parhsall: "And number two, I have to tell you, I don't know when they held this election and decided that tolerance was a transcendent value. I serve a God who, with the finger of fire, wrote He would have no other gods before Him. And He doesn't tolerate sin, which is why He sent His son to the cross. But all of a sudden now, we jump up and down and celebrate the idea of tolerance. I think tolerance means accommodation, but it doesn't necessarily mean acquiescence or wholehearted acceptance."

Gibson: "No, no, no. And if you figure that, listen, you know, we get a little theological here, and it's probably a bit over my head, but I would think if somebody is going to be, have to answer for following the wrong religion, they're not going to have to answer to me. We know who they're going to have to answer to."

Parshall: "Right."

Gibson: "And that's fine. Let'em. But in the meantime, as long as they're civil and behave, we tolerate the presence of other religions around us without causing trouble, and I think most Americans are fine with that tradition."

Olbermann continued: "Now, there is always the possibility, however remote, that that wasn't John Gibson but merely some kind of professional John Gibson impersonator, in which case that guy is clearly the worst person of all time. Or there's an evil twin thing going, maybe. Otherwise, that's really the whole shebang right there, that phrase 'wrong religion' actually sounds worse in context, doesn't it? It's the same kind of misunderstanding and perversion of religion to which we react in horror when we see it in terrorists who have twisted religions for their own purposes. Might as well have been commentators on an all-access al-Qaeda show on Al-Jazeera talking about infidels. And, by the way, don't you get this creepy feeling of embarrassment when somebody trying desperately to be holier-than-thou promptly mis-quotes the Bible? 'I serve a god who, with a finger of fire,' you just heard Janet Parshall say, 'wrote, he will have no other gods before him.' Actually, Miss Parshall, as any of us who've actually read the Bible know, the First Commandment is 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' That's not just a difference in pronouns. He's demanding exclusivity from those who believe in Him. Nothing in there saying other people can't serve other gods in which they believe. Sorry. I've strayed from the main topic, probably because it is awfully painful. Whether he thinks me insincere or not, I really did like Gibby. Hardworking, here always there to cover a shift or help out in any way he could. Now instead he's denying he said some truly despicable things, things that were recorded for posterity, and worse, he's now trying to blame those hateful things on me. Ordinarily, when somebody gets caught saying something as intolerant as this, their choices are A, to apologize, B, to resign, or C, to make sure there's no tape and try to lie their way out of it. John, unfortunately, chose D, blame it on somebody else. The audio clip is the definitive answer, and I would hope John would now have the self-respect to acknowledge what he said and to leave the airwaves for good because between the remark and the denial, he has, sadly, forfeited his right to stay here. Speaking of time to retire, first it was trouble in California, now in his homeland too?"