On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann devoted an entire segment (video available on Countdown Web site) to discussing links between a man arrested for domestic terrorism and "far right-wing blogs," describing the man as a "gushing online admirer" of conservative commentators Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, as the Countdown host suggested conservatives had inspired the man to commit terrorism. Olbermann also compared past actions by Malkin (see Malkin's blog for details) to "the King Henry thing about Thomas Becket." Olbermann: "There were the students at the University of California in Santa Cruz who protested military recruiters on their campus, Malkin posted their addresses and other personal information on her blog, and then when people harassed the students at their homes, Malkin did the King Henry thing about Thomas Becket, 'Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?' 'I never told anybody to do anything to them.' This is the problem, right? I mean, you can come out, you can directly encourage people to act violently, Ann Coulter has done that, or you can do it in this sort of thinly disguised way the way Malkin has." (Transcript follows)
Olbermann, who recently linked President Bush to domestic terrorism against Bush critics, as the MSNBC host had referred to King Henry's plea for someone to "rid me of this meddlesome priest," Bishop Thomas Becket, made a similar attack on Malkin. The Countdown host repeated his criticism of Malkin dating back to April 2006 when she posted on her blog the personal contact information of UC Santa Cruz student protesters who had blocked military recruiters from campus, a confrontation that had led to some recruiters being assaulted. Olbermann, who in April had called Malkin "crazier and dumber than we all thought," not only did not inform viewers that recruiters had been assaulted in the incident, but also did not mention that the student organizers had originally solicited responses by providing their contact information on a press release, which is from where Malkin transferred the information. At some point after the student protesters received threats, Malkin posted on her blog: "I do not condone death threats or foul language."
Olbermann's interest in going after conservatives contrasts with how little interest he showed in recent revelations of Democratic Congressman Murtha's involvement in a bribery scandal. While the NBC Nightly News had earlier run a story by correspondent Lisa Myers describing Murtha's involvement in the ABSCAM scandal, even showing a secretly recorded video of Murtha speaking with an undercover FBI informant about potential bribery, Olbermann only vaguely referred to a Washington Post article citing "Democratic concerns over Murtha's alleged ethics issues," as the Countdown host provided no details on the scandal. But Olbermann spent almost seven minutes discussing conservative bloggers and domestic terrorism.
Below is a transcript of some relevant portions of the November 14 Countdown show:
Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "The fake Anthrax mailings to Letterman, Stewart, Pelosi, others. More details and more reported on the suspect the FBI caught and his connections to far right wing blogs."
Olbermann, before commercial break at 8:14 p.m.: "And more on the white powder letter attacks, new details about the man charged and those whose rhetoric may have inspired him."
Olbermann, at 8:35 p.m., after describing the crime involving letters with fake Anthrax: "Castagana has also been identified as a gushing online admirer of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and Laura Ingraham. And the Web site Raw Story reports that many bloggers believe he is also a contributor under a different name to the conservative Web site Free Republic. In fact, the name used is supposed to be Marc Costanzo. Joining me now, John Cook, a senior writer for Radar Online, who's been covering all this since the news of the arrest broke on Sunday. ... The details of the letters, I think we pretty much got. Explain, if you can, what the link is to the right wing blogs and what the relevance of that link is."
John Cook, Radar Online: "Well, we should point out the evidence is not conclusive, but it's circumstantial, but it's good evidence. It appears that Mr. Castagana was a poster to the Free Republic, which, as you know, is an online library of some of the most thoughtful right wing thinkers out there. And his, the Marc Costanzo alias that he used, his profile said Ann Coulter is a goddess and 'I idolize Malkin and Ingraham.' And there are a lot of posts that suggest that he's a big fan of Malkin and Coulter."
Olbermann: "For the record, as I understand it, the connection is that the fellow identifying himself as Castanzo posted something about science fiction which he said was a rewrite of something he previously posted on a sci-fi site, which was written by him, identified by Castagana, but the Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin connection is, how is that best described? Is that hero worship or crushes of some kind? Or do we know what that is?"
Cook: "Well, I mean, if he's idolizing them, that sounds like hero worship to me. I mean, I think, you know, these, Ann Coulter and Malkin, you know, they sort of present a kind of rhetorical world view where they have their troops out there, and I think he thought of himself as one of their troops, and wanted to live up to their standards. And, I mean, I don't think we can always hold these people responsible for the actions of the least hinged of their followers, but I think it is clear that he was an acolyte of the Coulters and the Malkins. And I think that they clearly enjoy having acolytes, and they clearly, sort of, issue calls to action. Not necessarily to send threatening powder-filled envelopes to you in so many words, but they certainly exhort their followers to let themselves be known."
Olbermann: "But to that point, an acolyte is one thing, and emulation is something else. There were the students at the University of California in Santa Cruz who protested military recruiters on their campus, Malkin posted their addresses and other personal information on her blog, and then when people harassed the students at their homes, Malkin did the King Henry thing about Thomas Becket, 'Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?' 'I never told anybody to do anything to them.' This is the problem, right? I mean, you can come out, you can directly encourage people to act violently, Ann Coulter has done that, or you can do it in this sort of thinly disguised way the way Malkin has."
Cook: "Well, right, but I think what Malkin wants to do isn't to tell people to act violently so much as, I do think she wants to sort of introduce a kind of thuggish, sort of intimidating tone into the political debate, this kind of, 'Let's not let them boss us around anymore.' She's got a very combative, kind of truculent rhetorical pose, but, you know, I mean, Ann Coulter has said some, you know, absolutely ludicrous things about, I mean, you know, she once said that, you know, 'We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, making them realize that they can be killed, too.' And when she says that, I don't think she honestly believes that she, I don't think she actually wants people to hear those words to go and physically intimidate liberals. I think she says it because she knows that if she says outrageous things, her speakers bureau's fees go up or her next book contract goes up. She's a professional agitator."
Olbermann: "Yeah, until it, you know, bursts into gunfire. Nobody wants to see that in any direction. It's madness. But ultimately, about this thing and the things like it, is it not self-defeating for people who think they're acting, even in their own warped view of patriotism? I mean, you might scare the victims, though there's not evidence of that in any of these cases. You can annoy, maybe inconvenience their coworkers and the people who handle their mail, but the only thing that's for certain in this is if you do something like this, and I was talking to these great FBI counterterror guys yesterday about all this, you waste hundreds of hours of their time that they could be spending on other counterterrorism cases."
Cook: "Absolutely, the lead FBI agent, special agent on this case, is a member of the joint terrorism task force, and, you know, reading the affidavit in support of the search warrant for Mr. Castagana's house, there's like a keystone cops moment where these people are literally following him around Woodland Hills, California, watching him with letters in hand go from mailbox to mailbox looking for one where the pickup date hasn't passed, and there are a lot better things than that they could be doing with their time."