Culture,  Politics

Anchors Away: Olbermann and Matthews Are Out

The New York Times is reporting that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews have been relieved of their anchor duties:

“MSNBC tried a bold experiment this year by putting two politically incendiary hosts, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, in the anchor chair to lead the cable news channel’s coverage of the election.

“That experiment appears to be over.

“After months of accusations of political bias and simmering animosity between MSNBC and its parent network NBC, the channel decided over the weekend that the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host David Gregory would anchor news coverage of the coming debates and election night. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will remain as analysts during the coverage.

“The change — which comes in the home stretch of the long election cycle — is a direct result of tensions associated with the channel’s perceived shift to the political left. . .

“Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams, the past and present anchors of ‘NBC Nightly News,’ have told friends and colleagues that they are finding it tougher and tougher to defend the cable arm of the news division. . .”

I have made mention in several recent posts about the less-than-stellar news reporting that is going on at MSNBC (see here, here, and here). MSNBC’s coverage of the Democrat and Republican conventions was anything but objective (e.g., reporters weeping after Obama’s speech, etc.). MSNBC paired their most stridently liberal commentator (Keith Olbermann) with a former aide to Jimmy Carter (Chris Matthews) to anchor their coverage. Guess what happened. The coverage favored the Democrats while castigating the Republicans.

Bernie Goldberg describes liberal media bias not as a conscious agenda on the part of news reporters, but as an unconscious worldview that inevitably comes to the surface in the way that the news gets reported. For the most part, I have agreed with Goldberg on this point. Many “straight” news reporters try to be objective, but their worldview nevertheless undermines those efforts in subtle but profound ways. Thus we have “liberal” media bias.

But MSNBC’s “bias” problems are not of the sort that Goldberg wrote about, and that’s what makes them so significant. Olbermann and Matthews are both open supporters of the Democrat nominee for president. In other words, they are not even trying to be objective, yet they have been the front-men for MSNBC for months now. Olbermann and Matthews were filling positions usually populated by reporters, not by opinionators. Thus MSNBC made the conscious editorial decision to blur the line between reporting (“just the facts ma’am”) and commenting (“here’s what I think about the facts ma’am”).

I think their removal is a good move on MSNBC’s part, but I also think that more needs to be done on all the cable networks. The line between reporting and opinion is blurrier than ever, and our public discourse is the worse for it.

“MSNBC Takes Incendiary Hosts From Anchor Seat” – by Brian Stelter (New York Times)

[P.S. You are in bad shape if even the New York Times can see that you are biased!]


  • Nathan

    This network has been a joke, even to liberals, for quite a long time. The DNC and RNC conventions put them in their grave.

    Hopefully for good.

  • John


    Why don’t you ever post about Fox News? You want to talk bias, less than stellar coverage, and not being objective? I don’t care about you calling out MSNBC, but I’m afraid that Fox is just as bad.

    “Liberal media bias.” I’m sorry, but I just don’t see this when you say it (at least, not to the degree that you claim). If it were as bad as you and others claim to be, then the conservatives would never, ever have any chance to win any election due to the influence the media has….sorry. It’s easy to sit behind a computer screen or in the family room watching the television and cry “liberal” because something president Bush did is portrayed in a negative light, but just because they don’t praise Bush all the time doesn’t mean they all have a hidden and secret objective to be liberal and you have unlocked this hidden objective and discovered their “worldview” which is always liberal, of course, since they’re in the media (so does Fox news have a liberal worldview?). Why was Bill Clinton covered in a negative light during his presidency? Why have they aired the ridiculous claims about Obama? About his old church and pastor? I personally admire the job many of these men and women do. And you want to talk bias? That Criswell college radio show (Jerry Johnson Live or whatever it’s called) is about the most biased media I’ve ever seen. Speck/log.

    Too funny

  • Nathan


    First you need to distinguish between a “Christian” program and a “national” program before lumping Criswell College’s radio show into a conversation about a national network. Criswell would make no effort to hide their bias, i.e. worldview.

    As for your comment concerning Fox. Certainly Fox has the most conservative commentators in the business, but remember television is a business. Nobody is on the air without attempting to hold market share and make money.

    That is the point, at least to me, about this blog. MSNBC is so “over the top” in its position that even the network executives have finally had to do something. They may or may not have wanted to, but it is obvious that their market-share is so poor that they cannot keep doing business this way. And that is what this is about; business.

    Fox does what it does to make money, as do all the other networks. Say what you want, watch what you want, but there is bias in every journalistic endeavour. But crying publicly during a journalistic covering of a candidate’s speech is over the top. Remember the Nightly News is supposed to refrain from editorializing.

  • Brian (Another)


    I think John was alluding that Dr. Burk is claiming bias on MSNBC (in this case) only. And (totally my conjecture of what he is saying…..), by silence, holds the opposite true for Fox News. I, personally, would disagree with that, but I’m also reading into John’s comment, perhaps incorrectly.

    But thank you, John for rightly positioning Criswell’s radio program to MSNBC. Each juxtapositioned (sic) on the conservative/liberal “scale”.

    I have long been squeamish when I hear someone use the phrase liberal media bias. I have always been very skeptical of the “us” versus “them” phraseology. Well, I still am. But as time wears on, I see more and more examples of what my conservative friends are saying. To paraphrase David, none are without iniquities, but it is an unwarranted battering sometimes (I definitely don’t think all the time, the above scenario is not normal). All that said, I am blissfully out of the loop as I don’t have cable (or really much tv at all nowadays). I only get to catch it in our cafeteria every once in a while.

  • Nathan

    Brian (another),

    That may be the case, Denny would have to respond to your inquiry.

    As for you and John both wanting to compare and contrast Criswell College with MSNBC. This is an impossible task and beyond the scope of an argument. It would be like comparing Denver Thelogical Seminary with the University of Colorado. It can’t be done nor should it.

    Compare Fox and MSNBC or MSNBC and CNN, but you cannot attempt to correlate Denny’s discussion based on two entirely different mediums.

  • Brian (Another)


    I was being more tongue-in-cheek with the comparison comment. My point is that the bias of the MSNBC station is so over the top that to rightly characterize it (or equate it on the conservative side of the scale), you have to find a program like Criswell college’s, which overtly states its center (though I’ve never heard the program, I’d have to say it is God-centered and extremely conservative).

    Also, sometimes, it’s all in the way you say it (warning: I’m being picky right now) in one very very tiny example (to which I was alluding earlier). The following is a listing from “Today in History” dates recently.

    A divided Supreme Court made it easier for police to barge into homes and seize evidence without knocking or waiting.

    I doubt the court documents decisions said “today I am voting to make it easier for police to barge into homes”. The point being, the writers of a simple thing such as “Today in History” show their disdain for the decision. This is supposed to be a neutral report of something that happened. Their choice of verbiage (these are journalists) belies their obvious bias. I know, that’s picky, but it’s also a very minor place where it should be very easy to avoid putting in your opinions.

  • D.J. Williams


    Good point with your “Today in History” example. Choice of language is one of the most common (and subtle) ways that journalists betray their personal feelings and color the opinions of the reader.

  • Don

    Everyone has a worldview and since it is a worldview, it colors one’s perception of reality, one tends to see and hear what one believes (confirming evidence) and not see and not hear what one does not believe (disconfirming evidence). It takes effort to try to see and hear both sides, on an issue where there are only 2 sides, some issues have more than 2 positions.

    Many in the media have a liberal worldview and this WILL come out in their reporting. It does not take a conspiracy for this to happen. It can be as subtle as a head tilt or a slight inflection at the end of a statement indicating doubt, but in many cases it is more overt.

    The interesting thing in MSNBC’s case was the deliberate choice of 2 liberal reporters, there was no attempt to even appear balanced.

    When Obama appeared to be cruising to victory in poll after poll, this may have appeared to be a winning strategy for MSNBC, if most of the audience is liberal, tell them what they want to hear. The whole point in a network’s choices is to gain audience share and therefore money from advertisers.

    Now with the Palin surge, MSNBC sees the flaw in its earlier decision and makes a decision to try to make more money.

  • Paul

    “Now with the Palin surge, MSNBC sees the flaw in its earlier decision and makes a decision to try to make more money.”

    Honestly, I don’t know what MSNBC was thinking. Just as Fox can count on roughly 30% of the country being hardcore conservatives and watching nothing but FOX News, MSNBC could probably count on roughly 30% of the country being hardcore liberals and doing likewise.

    I thought it was actually a smart move to have such slanted coverage. But the marketing was all wrong. Instead of Calling themselves “The Place for Politics,” they should have just marketed themselves as an alternative to Fox. Sure, you’re going to limit your viewership somewhat, but you’d have a fervent base of QUALITATIVE viewers…that is, the viewers that stick around for multiple hours at a time, not turning the channel when the commercials come on. And then remind your prospective sponsors that if they can afford cable, what else can they afford?

    I’ve seen that strategy used by radio sales guys, and it usually works. Why MSNBC didn’t go that route, I’ll never know.

    And as for liberal bias on MSNBC, I’ll give you that Olbermann was a fluff guy for the left, but I’ve seen Matthews go after just as many lefties as righties (even if you can hear it in his voice that he’s only going after the lefties to appear objective). I remember being in shock that he had the fangs out and went after David Axelrod (Obama’s guru) early on in the primaries, asking what Obama had accomplished. Axelrod tried every dodge in the book, and Matthews wouldn’t let it go.

    That’s something that you’ll never see Fox do to McCain or Palin.

  • Jason


    It is a huge assumption that FoxNews would never go hard after McCain or Palin.

    Clearly Fox leans right..but for anyone to compare their coverage to the overtly biased MSNBC is simply off-base. Fox leans right. CNN leans left. MSNBC is basically like the Daily Show 24 hours a day.

    They openly criticized and blasted the Pubs at the RNC while fluffing up the Dems at the DNC. I saw nothing close to either from Fox.

  • Paul


    first off, let’s explain CNN again, shall we?

    If both the left and the right complain about a network, it means that they’re pretty much cutting it right down the middle. When the lefties stop referring to CNN as the “Conservative News Network” you can talk all you want.

    Not to mention, who has Glenn Beck on 5 nights per week? Oh, that bastion of liberalism, CNN.

    Seriously, know your facts before you spout on about them.

    As for the Fox vs. MSNBC debate:

    you know how you, as someone who is clearly, at the very least, a social conservative, just described the difference between the two?

    Ask any lefty, and they’d simply reverse the names. MSNBC leans left, CNN leans right and Fox would be the equivalent of the Daily Show if there were any Republicans out there with a sense of humor.

    And for the most part, I watched everything on C-SPAN for both conventions, so I missed Olbermann crying, and I missed whatever did or didn’t happen on Fox.

  • Jason


    Do you actually read people’s posts or do you just rant?

    I never said CNN was some sort of bastion of liberalism. I said they lean left. They have both cons and libs on their programs, so does Fox, who leans right.
    On the whole CNN and Fox were both very fair to both sides during the DNC and RNC. Only one news station was so obviously biased that they got rid of their anchors…and seriously, even my Dem friends don’t try and defend MSNBC. To say that Fox is the conservative equivalent of MSBNC is highly unfair.

    Do I think Dems think badly of Fox? Yes. because they are not used to seeing anyone being fair toward the right…and they hate it.

    But seriously, read someone’s post and deal with what they actually say before you spout on.

  • Nathan


    You need to get a grip. Fox is the Daily Show to those on the left? The left of who, Michael Moore?

    MSNBC is so far out there, their own anchors were axed because of it. That is not happening on either CNN or Fox.

    As Tom Hanks so eloquently said, “There is crying in baseball.” Gimme a break; crying over Obama’s speech. Tell Matthews, “there is no crying in journalism; certainly not for a speech.”

    Debate where CNN and Fox are on the scale, but MSNBC is sooo far gone Castro would think their radicals.

  • Paul


    I did read your post, and here’s the deal:

    when people call CNN left-leaning, it sends up the red flag of “dude has no clue what he is talking about!”

    And as for Fox, three words come to mind:

    Terrorist Fist Jab.

    Nuff said.

  • Paul

    One of the anchors on the most loveable 24 hour news channel of all time, in referring to Michelle and Barack’s fist bump when Hilary finally pulled out of the dem primaries, asked if it was a “terrorist fist jab.”

    Said anchor was never fired or reprimanded, as far as I know.

    And at that point, Fox lost any credibility that they might have had.

  • Jason


    The fact you think any media outlet shows no bias is quite naive.

    I didn’t say they were a bastion of liberalism and I didn’t say they were leftist nutjobs, just that they lean left.

    That’s actually a compliment. They are fairly unbiased, but lean left.

    But it is obvious you are convinced that they are able to pull off what no single person or entity anywhere else could be…completely, 100% unbiased.

  • Paul


    I know a solid attempt at unbiased coverage when I see it, and CNN is it. And I’ll respect that attempt enough to call them unbiased. If someone can’t respect that effort, then they should just stick to watching reruns of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, because their little brains obviously can’t handle much more stress than that.

    Fox and MSNBC don’t even try to hide their biases. We are agreed there.

    Why is this even an argument?

  • Jason

    Why is this an argument?

    Because you continually insist on equating Fox with MSNBC.

    That is absurd.

    No, we do not agree on that. I do not believe Fox is biased the way that everyone knows MSNBC is. I think Fox and CNN are actually in the middle, with their leanings.

    How do you not get this?

    (It is also incredibly irritating to read your continual attempts to minimize the intelligence of those that disagree with you. Grow up.)

  • Paul

    Now Fox is in the middle?


    Forget I ever said anything bad about anything that you agree with.

    You’re obviously correct in everything you say, and I apologize to you for taking up your precious time.

  • Jason


    You really should re-examine your method of discussion. Name-calling and false humility are not very becoming.

    The fact that you keep equating MSNBC with Fox is simply absurd….and you’ve proven that if someone doesn’t agree with you, you just attack their intelligence or name-call. Sad tactic.

    Truth is, your bias has told you what you believe and you are unwilling to consider anything else. I think CNN leans left (they have to lean somewhere). I think Fox leans right. I think both are pretty “fair and balanced” but both lean a direction. MSNBC isn’t even a news source, they are a liberal outpost…period. Even they realize it now!! (How you don’t is amazing!) Just because the Left hates Fox does not mean they are “far right”…they just hate everything right-leaning, thus they get smeared by MSNBC and other liberals as being “far right”.

    Have you ever actually watched it to see if it is true?

    Please give me examples of Fox being “far right”.

  • Truth Unites.. and Divides


    You really should re-examine your method of discussion. Name-calling and false humility are not very becoming.

    On a previous thread Jason was lauded and praised for making excellent, constructive comments.

    I would like to continue this trend and give further laudatory praise to Jason for his comments on this thread.

    Carry on.

  • Paul


    Okay, since you seem bent on continuing this…

    1) MSNBC as a NEWS SOURCE (so, let’s take the commentators out of it for a minute) is probably the best of the three. Stories break for them first, they cover stories thoroughly, and overall I am highly impressed with them as a NEWS SOURCE.

    2) Insofar as the coverage of the conventions go, if you want to focus of Olbermann and Matthews, go right ahead, but that was a small part of their coverage. You have to remember that they had a separate panel of Gene Robinson, Rachel Maddow and PAT BUCHANAN! What I genuinely liked about what I did see of MSNBC’s coverage is that they let EVERYONE’S biases come raging through, and you got a good cross section of right and left.

    2a) That said, C-Span was the only way to go for convention coverage, and there is NO arguing that.

    3) Before you get all wound up in a “MSNBC is SOOOOO terrible” argument, I will also remind you that Morning Joe is one of the best political shows I’ve seen anywhere. Joe really is as unbiased as I’ve ever seen a commentator, and he’s a republican to boot! Now add in David Gregory and Chuck Todd, and you’ve got a team of guys that talk politics because they love politics, not because they swing one way or the other.

    4) Now let’s talk political bias here. You want to rail on Olbermann, I’ll give you Olbermann. And while Matthews definitely shows you his colors, he’s definitely willing to put the screws to everyone. The same thing goes for Buchanan (this is the reason that I like Buchanan, even if we don’t agree on practically anything).

    But, now let’s talk Fox. Not only do they have Hannity (pretty far to the right, AND has Colmes for a punching bag), but they’ve also got O’Reilly, Brit Hume, Alan Keyes and William Kristol. ALL of their commentary is done not by moderately right folks, but by pretty far right folks — and when you’re talking Kristol or Keyes, you’re talking FRINGE right, not even “mainstream” right wing. Their entire commentary staff doesn’t LEAN right, they ARE “conservatives.”

    Now, as for examples of how this works into their normal reporting:

    1) the aforementioned “terrorist fist jab”.

    2) reporting that WMD had been found in Iraq before checking sources.

    3) The hatchet job that Chris (I forget his last name) did on Clinton, trying to blame him for 9/11 in an interview.

    I can go on if you’d like…

  • John

    I am left-leaning, and I admit that MSNBC was the “liberal” station, but to make the claim that Fox is even remotely close to the middle borders on the line of absurdity.

    I don’t care if you like Fox, or if you watch Fox, but at least admit that they are biased and come no where near the middle. That’s like saying Rush Limbaugh is fair and balanced, objective in his analyses of both parties political candidates. Come on, seriously. A news station with a woman who consistently called Obama “B Hussein Obama” intentionally and who called his and his wife’s fist bump the “terrorist fist jab” is anything but fair and balanced. Did you even see Obama’s interview with O’Reilly?

    MSNBC is extremely biased on the left, Fox News is extremely biased on the right. While other stations may lean certain ways (according to most here, that way is left), they are not as extreme as MSNBC and Fox.

    Call a spade a spade please.

  • kathy

    That was a very sad defense in the youtube video. Was that a defense of the gospel? The binding of women? Commom, I’m gonna blow my lid

    The rev revealed his lack of knowledge on Isaiah 3:12 and understanding of Eph 5 (not that Paul’s writings are for grade schoolers) and he showed his bias in his translation of Titus.

  • kathy

    Did I just witness a testimony to the defense of a gospel that binds women, given to the secular world?

    I’m going for a break lest I call down some fire……..

  • Jason

    Kathy, honestly, you should probably refrain from your judgment about Baucham’s understanding of Scripture.

    I don’t want to get into yet another egal-comp debate. I love that the CNN host (with a clear agenda) posits herself as some sort of biblical scholar.

    I’d love to hear how you believe he is wrong about Isaiah 3:12 and Eph 5. Of course, by your disagreement with him on Titus…are you not also showing your bias? (Honestly, the fact that so many egals continue to pretend as if they interpret texts free from bias is absolutely hilarious.)

  • John

    “Honestly, the fact that so many egals continue to pretend as if they interpret texts free from bias is absolutely hilarious”

    Ditto to the comps

  • Denny Burk

    FWIW, I don’t really care that much for Fox News, and I hardly ever watch it. Its reporting is very tabloidish, and I think Bill O’Reilly is about as objectionable as they come.

    Brit Hume’s show, however, is the best thing going on Fox News, and I like to watch it when I get the chance (which is not that often).

    As far as cable news goes, we usually watch MSNBC. That is probably why I have such a strong opinion about them.


  • Jason

    I really don’t watch a lot of TV news. When I do, I split my time between Fox and CNN. The only show I used to watch on MSNBC was Scarborough Country, but I haven’t watched it or Morning Joe in a while…but they are pretty decent shows.

    I agree Brit Hume is the only one I really enjoy watching. O’Reilly is entertaining at times, but too over the top for me (despite what Paul thinks about me).

  • Truth Unites... and Divides

    Denny Burk: “FWIW, I don’t really care that much for Fox News, and I hardly ever watch it. Its reporting is very tabloidish, and I think Bill O’Reilly is about as objectionable as they come.”

    Another opinion: “As a prosecutor, I was impressed with Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Obama relative to the surge. To put it bluntly, he put Obama in a box.”

  • Paul

    Jason in #35,

    “O’Reilly is entertaining at times, but too over the top for me (despite what Paul thinks about me).”

    I’ll think whatever you want me to think about you.

    However, if you think that Fox can hire people like William Kristol, Alan Keyes and Karl Rove and still be considered anything but “the right wing news channel”, I will rightly think that broadcasting, journalism and political science are not your strong points in life.

  • Paul


    way to prove my point. Fox is blatantly right wing. This article only proves my point. Here’s how…

    The bikini shot was so quickly proven to be a fake that I didn’t even see it on the news. So, what happens is, they take a non-event, and spin it into an event where clearly evil democrats did an evil thing while the clearly evil liberal media turned their heads the other way.

    And, frankly, as someone who is schooled in Photoshop, I could tell it was a fake right away.

    Now, as to why Fox is actually the worst news source I’ve ever seen…

    1) They claim that that’s “Sarah Palin” posing with an AK. Clearly it’s an air rifle. Surely the conservative network ought to know their guns better than someone who has spent most of his life living in a city where guns are prohibited!

    2) They pat themselves on the back in the article. MSNBC isn’t objective? At least they don’t put out news reports about how great they are!

    I can go on if you’d like.

  • Truth Unites.. and Divides

    The media can’t seem to understand why everyone thinks they’re biased. Well here’s a clue, your reporting on inflamatory remarks by celebrities as if they were important news stories; and your stories repeatedly are framed with the slant of the Obama campaign. CNN may not be able to see their own bias, but everyone else can.

    People are finally waking up to the pernicious bias in the liberal mainstream media.

    Bye-bye Olbermann! Bye-bye Chris Matthews!

  • Paul


    “Bye-bye Olbermann! Bye-bye Chris Matthews!”

    Uhhh, they still have their own shows. Olbermann’s in particular has been rising in the ratings.

    They’re not going anywhere. They’re just not acting as news anchors during political coverage anymore.

    (pats TUAD on the head)

  • Paul

    as anchors. Just because it’s Denny’s headline doesn’t mean that they’re really gone.

    Sometimes it helps to read an article, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with the egal/comp debate.

  • Truth Unites.. and Divides

    Sometimes it helps to think and reason clearly, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with music or liberal politics.

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