I have a bit of a love-hate thing going for Keith Olbermann of MSNBC news. On the one hand, when he takes down Bill O’Reilly for defaming U.S. troops or Sarah Palin for anti-science idiocy, I have to admit, he’s effective and sometimes even amusing. However, like some others, I often find him diving too far into meanness, becoming in essence a left-wing version of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. That’s why I found this SNL parody particularly amusing:

I used to kind of like Keith Olbermann. These days, though, I tend to find him to be almost as much of a blowhard as any rightwing pundit–rather like the parody above. I also found Olbermann’s response to the parody rather lame as well. The dude needs to lighten up about himself. I realize I’m close to alone around ScienceBlogs in thinking this, but at least I’m not totally alone.

Alright, enough politics. Back to my usual topics tomorrow…


  1. #1 Rev Matt
    November 4, 2008

    Agreed on Olbermann, though he’s not as bad as Chris Matthews. Though the SNL take on him is pretty damn funny, too bad he doesn’t even have a sense of humor about that.

  2. #2 Joshua Zelinsky
    November 4, 2008

    Video seems corrected now. That is highly amusing. Olbermann’s attempt at false modesty doesn’t help matters much.

  3. #3 tbell1
    November 4, 2008

    Every time I hear someone compare Rush Limbaugh, or O’Reilly, or Coulter to someone more left and hold them up as an equivalent I have to stop and scratch my head. There are simply no mainstream equivalents to Rush and pals. They are systematic liars, and inveterate distortionists. If you think Olbermann is an equivalent you simply haven’t been listening. I will concede that in tone, but not in substance, Olberman *might* begin to approach someone like Hannity in his level of apparent condescension, but again not Limbaugh. Go listen to two or three of Rush’s shows, then fact check them. I’ll buy you drinks if you don’t change your mind about the comparison.

  4. #4 Orac
    November 4, 2008

    It’s a little known fact that I have admitted on my blog before, but I used to be a regular listener of both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Their shows were back to back, and when I was in the lab or my office in the afternoon, I’d frequently listen to all six hours two or three times a week, sometimes more. Granted, I drifted away from them a few years back (sometime round about the time I started blogging, actually), but I daresay I probably know what they sound like and what their antics are probably better than you do. Curiosity still drives me every now and then to check them out when I happen to be in my office or in the car when they’re on.

    Also, I find it funny that you threw Ann Coulter into the mix. I never mentioned her–intentionally. I find her more despicable than Limbaugh and Hannity combined.

  5. #5 Maria
    November 4, 2008

    I rather liked his reaction in Monday’s show. His “reaction” you link to is not to the skit itself. It’s him reacting to the McCain campaign.

    My impression of Olbermann is that he has a public persona. He seems too smart for that to be his actual personality. And I happen to believe that he will not be the lapdog of a potential Obama administration, which to me sets him apart from the conservative talking heads you compare him to.

  6. #6 RJ
    November 4, 2008

    I have to agree. I have become quite disappointed with him and the fact MSNBC has clearly become the left-wing equivalent of Faux News. I don’t need to have someone tell me like it is. Just give me the facts and I’ll derive my own conclusions…wait, did I just sound like a scientist?

  7. #7 Orac
    November 4, 2008

    And I happen to believe that he will not be the lapdog of a potential Obama administration, which to me sets him apart from the conservative talking heads you compare him to.

    Actually, if you think Rush is a lapdog of the administration, you don’t understand him. He’s actually to the right of the administration and will frequently go on tirades against the administration if it does something he deems too “moderate” or “liberal,” for example not being tough enough on immigration. What Rush really is is the lapdog of the furthest reaches of the right wing of the Republican Party, and he uses his influence whenever he can to mobilize his listeners to punish the administration when it strays from The One True Faith.

    Hannity, on the other hand, is indeed a lapdog of the administration.

  8. #8 Becca
    November 4, 2008

    Here are my gut reactions:
    Coulter is despicable- I wish she would go into a hole and die already.
    Limbaugh is merely a bit evil- I wish to never hear from him again.
    Hannity is mostly irrelevant (since I can’t actually remember anything he’s said).
    O’Reilly can stay- he’s simply material for Colbert.

    Olbermann has moments of brillance, but his style can completely undercut his message.

  9. #9 Orac
    November 4, 2008

    Actually, the best way to look at Sean Hannity is as a Rush Limbaugh wannabe without the intelligence or wit. (I begrudgingly have to admit that Rush can be hilarious at times, and he knows his audience.)

  10. #10 Josh Charles
    November 4, 2008

    I used to be an regular listener to Rush Limbaugh, and while I do think both him and Olbermann tend to use hyperbole I do think that Olbermann’s sources tend to be much more credible than Limbaugh’s. There have been some glaring exceptions to this, but over all Olbermann seems to have much more intellectual curiosity and honesty.

    I remember tuning into Limbaugh’s show about a year ago or so and being amazed that I had never noticed how much he advertises for homeopathic cold remedies sometimes mere seconds after calling himself the voice of reason in america. I think that’s far above anything you’ll see from Olbermann.

  11. #11 pough
    November 4, 2008

    1. I think Olberman can be a bit much, in the same way Limbaugh can.

    2. The parody was very funny.

    3. Maybe I didn’t follow the right link, but to me Olberman’s response doesn’t deserve “dude needs to lighten up about himself” because it seems to be essentially saying “why are you bothering to talk about me?”

  12. #12 Scott
    November 4, 2008

    I have to agree. On the other hand, Rachel Maddow appears to be just as entertaining as Olbermann, and not as vitriolic. She obviously has a biased view point (one I’ve come to share, even as a life long Republican), but it’s laid out more evenly. I especially liked her interview of Obama.

  13. #13 Yoo
    November 4, 2008

    I do think that there’s a place for Olbermann, for his bouts of outrage can be strangely cathartic to watch after eight years of Bush, especially since there’s not as much total make-believe or double standards as on the far right shows.

  14. #14 TexDoc
    November 4, 2008

    I have to admit, SNL has been spot on funny for the past few months. This is no exception. Olbermann should stick to sports, alongside Dan Patrick. His pretentiousness is so off-putting that even his good points get lost in the raging ego. I’ve never been a Limbaugh fan, and Hannity comes across as a lightweight. I miss Crossfire when Michael Kinsley and Pat Buchanan had some decent repartee. Lately, I really enjoy Dennis Miller. I like a viewpoint that is socially more on the liberal side, fiscally more on the conservative side. Throw in some good humor, and his show is the most interesting thing out there.

  15. #15 tbell1
    November 4, 2008

    at great risk of being a bore, I’ll try again.
    There are two main dimensions to compare these guys on.
    1. factual information
    2. tone/style
    I find them far too different on dimension 1. to ever call them equivalent. As for dimension 2. Olbermann can be petty, mean, and pretentious and deserves to be called on it when it happens. Since I think I’m more annoyed by problems with truthfulness, i get confused when people tell me that ‘so and so’ is the left’s equivalent of Rush. I hear this about Olbermann, but also about Franken and others on lefty talk radio. And it’s simply impossible for me to take this assertion of equivalence seriously. I interpret either as underrating the factual dimension, or really being very uncritical of how badly Rush et al. distort the issues.

  16. #16 anonimouse
    November 5, 2008

    I’ve always been conflicted on Olbermann, who was awesome on Sports Center back in the day but has devolved into a Ted Baxter-esque hack – which this parody illustrates quite nicely.

  17. #17 Strider
    November 6, 2008

    Wait, wait, wait…Keith Olbermann can be strident but as far as I can tell he’s NEVER spewed falsehoods like Hannity and Limbaugh. C’mon, it’s a terrible comparison! And he’s anything but a hack.

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