Olbermann Suggests Palin & Other Conservatives ‘Slightly Less Madmen’ Than Gunman, Apologizes for Past Violent Suggestions

 As he hosted a special two-hour edition of Countdown on Saturday night to cover the violent attack on Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann ended up delivering a "Special Comment" in which he called for an end to the use of violent imagery by political figures of all ideologies, even apologizing for his own history, but he also at one point seemed to describe Sarah Palin and other conservative public figures as "slightly less madmen" than the gunman who attacked Giffords. Olbermann:

We will not because tonight what Mrs. Palin and what Mr. Kelly and what Congressman West and what Ms. Angle and what Mr. Beck and what Mr. O'Reilly and what you and I must understand was that the man who fired today did not fire at a Democratic Congresswoman and her supporters. He was not just a madman incited by 1,000 daily temptations by slightly less madmen to do things they would not rationally condone.

Although the MSNBC host only provided one example of his own past misdeeds - which involved a comment he made about Hillary Clinton in April 2008 - Olbermann’s own history also includes a June 2006 case in which he depicted an image of conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh as a target of gunfire, and in October 2008 when he showed a cartoon image of FNC’s Bill O’Reilly being beaten bloody by the Stewie Griffin character from a Family Guy DVD extra scene. And just in November of last year, Olbermann complained that President Obama would likely negotiate with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over tax policy "instead of kicking him in the ass."

Early on in his "Special Comment," as he picked up on an appeal made by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik - who notably appeared as a guest on Olbermann’s Countdown show last July to criticize Arizona’s strict new immigration law - the MSNBC host quoted the sheriff’s criticism of unspecified personalities on radio and television as possibly having played a role in inspiring real violence:

"I think it's time as a country we need to do a little soul searching because I think that the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from the people in the radio business and some people in the TV business, and what we see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised. It may be free speech, but it does not come without consequences. Arizona has become the Mecca of prejudice and bigotry."

Olbermann then proceeded to list six conservative public figures, and asserted that if they refuse to apologize for some of their past words or activities, that they should be shunned. Included in his list were former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Florida Republican Congressman Allen West, and FNC hosts Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Regarding Palin, he demanded:

And if Sarah Palin whose Web site put and today scrubbed bull's-eyes targets on 20 Representatives, including Gabby Giffords, does not repudiate her own part - however tangential - in amplifying violence and violent imagery in American politics, she must be dismissed from politics. She must be repudiated by the members of her own party. And if they fail to do so, each one of them must be judged to have silently defended this tactic that today proved so awfully foretelling. And they must in turn be dismissed by the responsible members of their own party.

Regarding Beck and O’Reilly, he insisted:

If they do not begin their next broadcasts with solemn apologies for ever turning to the death fantasies and the dreams of blood lust, forever having provided just the oxygen to those deep in madness to whom violence is an acceptable solution, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by their viewers and listeners, by all politicians who would appear on their programs including President Obama and his planned interview with Fox on Super Bowl Sunday, and repudiated by the sponsors and by the networks that employ them. If all of these are not responsible for what happened in Tucson, they must now be responsible for doing everything they can to make certain Tucson does not happen again.

The MSNBC host concluded his "Special Comment" by making an apology:

It is a simple pledge, it is to the point, and it is essential that every American politician and commentator and activist and partisan take it and take it now. I say it first and freely. Violence or the threat of violence has no place in our democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or anything in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans. Good night and good luck

Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann’s "Special Comment" aired at 9:50 p.m. on MSNBC's Countdown show on Saturday, January 8:

KEITH OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a "Special Comment" on the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona today. We need to put the guns down. Just as importantly, we need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently. Left, right, middle, politicians and citizens, sane and insane. This morning in Arizona this age in which this country could accept the, quote, "targeting," of political opponents and putting bull's-eyes over their faces and of the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows has ended. This morning in Arizona this time of the ever-escalating borderline ecstatic invocation of violence - in fact or in fantasy - in our political discourse, has closed.

It is essential tonight not to demand revenge, but to demand justice, to insist not upon payback against those politicians and commentators who have so irresponsibly brought us to this time of domestic terrorism, but to work to change the minds of them and their supporters. Or if those minds tonight are too closed or if those minds tonight are too unmoved, or if those minds tonight are too triumphant to make sure by peaceful means that those politicians and commentators and supporters have no further place in our system of government.

At his news conference this evening, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik took the extraordinary step of reporting not details of the crime scene alone but rather of the political and cultural climate: "I think it's time as a country we need to do a little soul searching because I think that the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from the people in the radio business and some people in the TV business, and what we see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised. It may be free speech, but it does not come without consequences. Arizona has become the Mecca of prejudice and bigotry."

And Sarah Palin whose Web site put and today scrubbed bull’s-eyes targets on 20 Representatives, including Gabby Giffords, does not repudiate her own part - however tangential - in amplifying violence and violent imagery in American politics, she must be dismissed from politics. She must be repudiated by the members of her own party. And if they fail to do so, each one of them must be judged to have silently defended this tactic that today proved so awfully foretelling. And they must in turn be dismissed by the responsible members of their own party.

If Jesse Kelly - whose campaign against Congresswoman Giffords included that event in which he encouraged his supporters to join him firing machine guns - does not repudiate this, does not even admit that even if it was solely indirectly, or solely coincidentally, it contributed to the black cloud of violence that has enveloped our politics, he must be repudiated by Arizona's Republican Party.

If Congressman Allen West, who, during his successful campaign, told his supporters that they should make his opponent afraid to come out of his own home, does not repudiate those remarks and all other suggestions of violence or forced fear, he should be repudiated by his constituents and the Republican congressional caucus.

If Sharron Angle - who spoke of Second Amendment remedies - does not repudiate that remark and urge her supporters to think anew and again of the terrible reality of what her words implied, she must be repudiated by her supporters in Nevada. If the Tea Party leaders who took out of context a Jefferson quote about blood and tyranny and the tree of liberty, do not understand, do not understand tonight, now, what that really means and these leaders do not tell their followers to abhor violence and all threat of violence, then those Tea Party leaders must be repudiated by the Republican Party.

If Glenn Beck - who obsesses nearly as strangely as this Mr. Loughner about gold and debt - and who wistfully joked about killing Michael Moore, and Bill O'Reilly who blithely repeated "Tiller the killer" until the phrase was burned into the minds of his viewers, if they do not begin their next broadcasts with solemn apologies for ever turning to the death fantasies and the dreams of blood lust, for ever having provided just the oxygen to those deep in madness to whom violence is an acceptable solution, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by their viewers and listeners, by all politicians who would appear on their programs including President Obama and his planned interview with Fox on Super Bowl Sunday, and repudiated by the sponsors and by the networks that employ them. If all of these are not responsible for what happened in Tucson, they must now be responsible for doing everything they can to make certain Tucson does not happen again.

And if those of us considered to be on the left do not rededicate ourselves to our vigilance to eliminate all our own suggestions of violence, however inadvertent they might have been, however mild they might have been, then we, too, deserve the repudiation of the more sober and peaceful of our politicians and our viewers and our networks. Here, once in a clumsy metaphor, I made such an unintended statement about the presidential candidacy of then-Senator Clinton. It sounded as if it was a call to physical violence. It was wrong then, it is even more wrong tonight, I apologize for it again, and I urge politicians and commentators and citizens of every political conviction to use my comment as a means to recognize the insidiousness of violent imagery that if it can go so easily and slip into the comments of one as opposed to violence as me, how easily, how pervasively, how disastrously it can slip into the already violent or deranged mind.

For tonight, we stand at one of the cliched crossroads of American history, even if the alleged terrorist, Jared Lee Loughner, was merely shooting into a political crowd because he wanted to shoot into a political crowd, even if he was somehow unaware who was in that crowd, we have, nevertheless, for years been building up to a moment just like this. Despite the YouTube videos of what appears to be Loughner referring specifically to the Eighth Congressional District of Arizona, Gabby Giffords’ district. Assume the details are coincidence, the violence is not. The rhetoric has devolved and descended past the ugly and past the threatening and past the fantastic and into the imminently murderous.

We will not return to the 1850s when a pro-slavery Congressman nearly beat to death an anti-slavery Senator and when an anti-slavery madman cut to death with broad swords pro-slavery advocates. And we will not return to the 1960s when, with rationalizations of an insane desire for fame or of hatred, or of political opposition, a President was assassinated. And an ultraconservative would be-President was shot at and paralyzed and a leader of peace was murdered on a balcony.

We will not because tonight what Mrs. Palin and what Mr. Kelly and what Congressman West and what Ms. Angle and what Mr. Beck and what Mr. O'Reilly and what you and I must understand was that the man who fired today did not fire at a Democratic Congresswoman and her supporters. He was not just a madman incited by 1,000 daily temptations by slightly less madmen to do things they would not rationally condone. He fired today into our liberty and our rights to live and to agree or disagree in safety and in freedom from fear that our support or opposition will cost us our lives or our health or our sense of safety.

The bull’s-eye might just as well have been on Mrs. Palin or Mr. Kelly or you or me. The wrong, the horror would have been, could still be just as real and just as unacceptable. At a time of such urgency and impact, we as Americans - conservative or liberal - should pour our hearts and souls into our politics. We should not, none of us - not Gabby Giffords, not any conservative - ever have to pour our blood. And every politician and commentator who hints otherwise - or worse still stays silent now - should have no place in our political system and should be denied that place, not by violence, but by being shunned and ignored.

It is a simple pledge, it is to the point, and it is essential that every American politician and commentator and activist and partisan take it and take it now. I say it first and freely. Violence or the threat of violence has no place in our democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or anything in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans. Good night and good luck