Olbermann Raises NewsBusters & Gumbel's “Paucity of Blacks” GOP-Olympics Analogy

On Monday night's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted a segment to Bryant Gumbel's race-baiting admonition on HBO, about the Winter Olympics, to “try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention." Olbermann aired a video clip of Gumbel playing "an unusual race card," and given its blurry nature and tinny sound, as well as how it exactly matched what was posted last week on NewsBusters, I'd bet the MSNBC producers lifted it from that Web-quality posting.

When the video ended, Olbermann reported that “as the transcript of that inched its way around the Internet, Gumbel was attacked by far-right bloggers.” Though the NewsBusters posting was quite critical of Gumbel, Olbermann cited how “a writer at the right-wing Web site NewsBusters noted Gumbel's remarks 'perfectly sums up my feelings regarding the Olympics.'” Olbermann also suggested Gumbel was either vindicated or somewhat undermined over the weekend when Shani Davis won “the gold in the men's thousand meter speed skating, the first African-American ever to win a gold in an individual Winter Olympic event.” (Transcript follows.)

Video excerpt of Olbermann (1:28): Real (2.5 MB) or Windows Media (2.9 MB). Plus MP3 audio (500 KB)
Keith Olbermann, on the February 20 Countdown, after a look at the career of sportscaster Curt Gowdy who passed away: “Sports is so often a barometer -- even a harbinger -- of race relations in this country. A prominent TV journalist like Curt Gowdy [meant to say “Bryant Gumbel”?], a long time NBC sportscaster, said he had no interest in the winter Olympics in part because of, quote, 'a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention.' It was Bryant Gumbel in the latest episode of his HBO series, Real Sports, that premiered about two weeks ago. On the subject of the Winter Olympics, Bryant was identifying himself as among those 'who don't like 'em and don't watch 'em.' He mentioned sports based on judging, not on game results, he pointed out that many reporters don't understand some of the exotic sports nor care about them between the Olympics. And then he played an unusual race card:”

Video of Gumbel from the February 7 Real Sports on HBO: “Tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don't like 'em and won't watch 'em. In fact, I figure when Thomas Paine said 'these are the times that try men's souls,' he must have been talking about the start of another Winter Olympics. Because they're so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention.”

Olbermann: “As the transcript of that inched its way around the Internet, Gumbel was attacked by far-right bloggers. Rush Limbaugh accused him of calling the Republican Party 'totally racist,' which I don't think he said. A writer at the right-wing Web site NewsBusters noted Gumbel's remarks 'perfectly sums up my feelings regarding the Olympics.' But the most far-reaching reaction to what Bryant Gumbel said, Shani Davis of Chicago, son of the South Side who ran home to avoid being beat up by gangs and other toughs as a kid, winning the gold in the men's thousand meter speed skating, the first African-American ever to win a gold in an individual Winter Olympic event. Putting Shani Davis aside for a moment -- he lives in Canada, many of his American teammates barely know him -- what about Gumbel? Did he get a pass? With the exception of Shani Davis was he right?”
Olbermann then discussed those questions with Tony Bruno of Sporting News Radio.

For the NewsBusters posting last Wednesday night by Dave Pierre, with RealPlayer and Windows Media video of Gumbel's racial slam, “HBO's Gumbel: Lack of Blacks Makes Olympics 'Look Like a GOP Convention.”

Direct links to that Gumbel video clip (31 secs): Real (885 KB), Windows Media (1 MB) or MP3 audio (185 KB).

For a complete transcript of Gumbel's commentary, as well as another posting of the video, check the February 16 MRC CyberAlert.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center