‘High Level’ MSNBC Source: Olbermann Tainting ‘Face of NBC News’

MSNBC's Election Night AnchormanA “high level source inside MSNBC” tells the TVNewser blog that network stars like Tim Russert and Chris Matthews are “upset” and “pissed” that the far-left Keith Olbermann is tainting the network’s credibility with his “activism,” such as blogging for the hard-left Daily Kos site.

“What’s it going to be like in the general election now that everyone knows we’re the in-house network of Barack Obama,” TVNewser’s Steve Krakauer quoted the MSNBC insider as fretting. The source suggested Olbermann was allowed to get away with his activism because the network fears the Countdown host would quit:

“They are convinced that he will walk. He behaves like a man who has nothing left to lose. He is not central to MSNBC, he is the center of the MSNBC ratings strategy. We hang the entire schedule on him."

A network spokesperson dismissed the complaint, telling TVNewser, "Your source is ill-informed and the assertions are laughable."

Excerpts from the June 3 posting, which went up before tonight’s primary coverage began:

Tonight may be the last of the primaries, but the discussion of the cable news coverage will no doubt continue for months to come. MSNBC has bore the brunt of much of the criticism, from a candidate, a competitor, and many voices in between. Now, TVNewser speaks with a high level source inside MSNBC, who sheds light on some of the inside rumblings.

"Every Tuesday night Keith is up there as the face of NBC News. That's a problem," says our source. "[Tim] Russert is upset about it. Russert has spent 20 years building credibility. All of a sudden he's taking questions from Keith Olbermann, the Daily Kos blogger?"

The insider says Olbermann's election night partner has reservations as well: "Chris Matthews is quite pissed about it. He knows a lot about politics and he takes it seriously. He's so close to it that he's not that political. He's not an activist — Keith's an activist. That's the difference."

Suspending excerpt: Okay, I'll concede that Matthews, unlike Olbermann, has a true political insider's grasp of politics, but it's absurd to claim that Matthews is "not that political." Back on February 12, when he admitted getting thrills up his leg from hearing Barack Obama speak, it was actually Olbermann who told Matthews to "steady."

Resuming excerpt:

With the primaries finished, the focus moves to the general election. "What's it going to be like in the general election now that everyone knows we're the in-house network of Barack Obama?" asked our insider.

"There's a huge difference between rooting for one side in a Democratic primary, and another one to take sides in a general election and go out and openly root for a candidate. You can't do that," said the insider. "You think Russert is going to put up with that? Election night coverage in November with Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann?

"The key is his willingness to quit," says our source about Olbermann. "And he means it. He has convinced management of that. They are convinced that he will walk. He behaves like a man who has nothing left to lose. He is not central to MSNBC, he is the center of the MSNBC ratings strategy. We hang the entire schedule on him."

TVNewser has also posted a response by NBC News Senior Vice President Phil Griffin, which you can find here.

Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes is the Senior Editor for Newsbusters