Olbermann Portrays Republicans as Hypocritical on Democrat Coffins Ad

In March 2004, when the Bush campaign ran ads showing a brief image of a flag-draped body being removed from the World Trade Center wreckage, the media played up charges by Bush critics that the President was exploiting 9/11 for political purposes. When Republicans recently criticized Democrats for an ad that included images of flag-draped coffins of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, most of the media ignored the controversy, but not MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. The Countdown host instead weighed in taking the side of Democrats. Olbermann portrayed Republican criticism of the ad as "rock throwing" by those living in "glass houses" while putting no burden on Democrats to be consistent with their criticism of the Bush ad two years ago, as he relayed the Democratic argument justifying the ad: "Democrats say the Republicans erased the line years ago." (Transcript follows)

Olbermann ran two plugs ahead of the segment in which he singled out Republicans as having a double standard. Plug number one: "And images of our war dead: Coffins draped with American flags. Is it fair to use those images in political ads? Republicans say the Democrats have crossed a line. Democrats say the Republicans erased the line years ago."

Plug number two: "Our own war dead at the center of a political firestorm here. Democrats using images of flag-draped coffins in a new advertisement. Republicans crying foul and, in doing so, possibly forgetting their own ads using 9/11 and military images."

Olbermann introduced the segment comparing the President's use of 9/11 images and appearances with active military personnel in his campaign to Democrats' use of the coffins of U.S. troops in their ad: "Republicans have used images of 9/11 in each campaign advertising year since 9/11. A president ran for reelection with active servicemen standing behind him at every other turn." He then cited the marketing of military-style caps by the conservative NewsMax Web site, tagged by Olbermann as "rabidly right-wing," as he bolstered the case that critics of the Democratic ad are being hypocritical: "A current advertisement by the rabidly right-wing Web site NewsMax is offering U.S. military desert camouflage hats featuring photos of the hats being worn by laughing twentysomething models on a beach somewhere, and of the hats being worn by grim-faced twentysomething military grunts standing in harm's way somewhere."

Without mentioning any inconsistency by Democrats, Olbermann continued by referring to the old adage about throwing stones in glass houses: "There are a lot of people living in a lot of glass houses on the question of what's appropriate or inappropriate in political ads. But that never stopped the rock-throwing before, and it's not stopping it now."

Olbermann brought aboard NBC News correspondent Chip Reid to discuss the controversy and, at one point, brought up House Republican Leader John Boehner's response to a reporter's question about what the difference was between the Democratic ad and the Bush ad, but Olbermann still did not bring up past criticism of the Bush ad by Democrats: "A reporter asked what the difference was between Democrats using images from Iraq in a political campaign, Republican ads from 2004 that used pictures of the World Trade Center attacks to get the President reelected."

After a clip of Boehner, Olbermann continued: "Mr. Boehner went on to say that the differences are as clear as night and day. But I gather that he never actually mentioned what those differences are. Do we have any idea what the differences are?"

Below is a transcript of portions of the segment from the July 13 Countdown show:

Keith Olbermann, before commercial break at 8:13 p.m.: "And images of our war dead: Coffins draped with American flags. Is it fair to use those images in political ads? Republicans say the Democrats have crossed a line. Democrats say the Republicans erased the line years ago."

Olbermann, before commercial break at 8:20 p.m.: "Our own war dead at the center of a political firestorm here. Democrats using images of flag-draped coffins in a new advertisement. Republicans crying foul and, in doing so, possibly forgetting their own ads using 9/11 and military images."

Olbermann, introducing the segment: "Republicans have used images of 9/11 in each campaign advertising year since 9/11. A president ran for reelection with active servicemen standing behind him at every other turn. A current advertisement by the rabidly right-wing Web site NewsMax is offering 'U.S. military desert camouflage hats featuring photos of the hats being worn by laughing twentysomething models on a beach somewhere, and of the hats being worn by grim-faced twentysomething military grunts standing in harm's way somewhere. So in our third story in the Countdown tonight, there are a lot of people living in a lot of glass houses on the question of what's appropriate or inappropriate in political ads. But that never stopped the rock-throwing before, and it's not stopping it now."

[clip of ad shown]

Olbermann: "That is the latest ad from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Of course, we would not even have known it existed but for the House Republicans who went before TV cameras today armed with helpful diagrams to express their outrage over the use of the images of casualties from the war in Iraq."

[clips shown of House Republicans denouncing the ad]

Olbermann: "House Republicans did not stop at a news conference. Rep. Tom Cole introduced a resolution calling for Congress to condemn the use of military caskets or funerals for partisan political and fund-raising purposes. ...

Olbermann: "Let me get your reaction to something that the House Majority Leader, Mr. Boehner, said in his daily briefing. A reporter asked what the difference was between Democrats using images from Iraq in a political campaign, Republican ads from 2004 that used pictures of the World Trade Center attacks to get the President reelected."

[clip of Boehner shown]

Olbermann: "Mr. Boehner went on to say that the differences are as clear as night and day. But I gather that he never actually mentioned what those differences are. Do we have any idea what the differences are?"

[Chip Reid]

Olbermann: "But also, I'm struck by the offense being taken by critics about images of flag-draped coffins while no one seems to be objecting to the fact that there are flag-draped coffins. Would it seem a little less disingenuous, could somebody really steal the march here for somebody criticizing this to just drop in one line starting with, 'Of course we wish there were no coffins to show,' before they launch political bombshells? Or am I once again asking too much of politicians?"