Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Oh Brother, Ohio, and O'Reilly

Oh Brother, Ohio, and O'Reilly

by Keith Olbermann
November 16, 2004

SECURE UNDISCLOSED LOCATION— Keep your aluminum foil hats at the ready.

The purported linking of failed Florida congressional candidate Jeff Fisher and Ralph Nader, trumpeted on Fisher’s website, is news to Nader’s spokesman Kevin Zeese.

That’s particularly troublesome for Mr. Fisher because it is to Zeese that the connection is attributed:

“Kevin Zeese,” the Fisher site reads, “officially announced that Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader will be consulting with Jeff Fisher and Jan Schneider regarding the investigation of voter fraud and a statewide recount for the state of Florida.”

When the nose-to-the-grindstone Countdown staff (as opposed to me, vacation boy) contacted Zeese, he said it was the first he’d heard of any ‘official announcement.’ Zeese acknowledges he’d spoken to Fisher, and surmises, correctly I think, that Fisher (he lost in the Florida 16th) and Schneider (she lost in the 13th, to Katherine Harris) were trying to increase their credibility by tying their efforts to the Nader campaign. Given the pounding Nader’s gotten for four years, Zeese laughed out loud at the irony.

Fisher has been cited in many places as claiming he has firm evidence of deliberate computer-hacking in the Florida vote, and was awaiting FBI agents with whom he was to share it. Not to dismiss him or his claims, but the show’s contact with him was not encouraging. He spoke vaguely of sources and whispered a lot.

Hell, ‘Deep Throat’ from Watergate whispered a lot.

Then again, so does the guy who wanders around Columbus Circle claiming the government caused the Red Sox to win the World Series.

We’ll reserve judgment on Mr. Fisher’s claims— and keep them out of this space until and unless they have stronger legs. But the “consulting” role with Nader isn’t the case, and bodes ill for Fisher’s other assertions.

Meanwhile in Ohio, it’s not exactly the lead story on Nightly News, but the verifying of the provisional ballots has gotten the attention of the most influential, and underrated, news source in the country— the Associated Press. It is from this wire service that most smaller newspapers and nearly all local and national radio and television news departments glean their national material (and from which, though they’d never admit it, most newspaper columnists, draw most of their data).

The AP reports that by yesterday, 11 of Ohio’s 88 counties had completed vetting the provisionals and that ten of the districts have accepted the validity of more than 90 percent of them. One— Belmont County (along the West Virginia border)— has tossed 42%, and nearing the halfway mark in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), the election board there has accepted about two-thirds.

And this afternoon, the AP’s TV and radio columnist Frazier Moore wrote a withering satire of the post-election television political landscape, so much in the manner of Jonathan Swift that it has been forwarded to me by conservatives claiming it “proves” there’s no reason to cover any voting issues. Generally speaking, mainstream silence seems to be passing: Sunday, the Hartford Courant printed an op-ed from the Associate Dean of the Yale Law School, Ian Solomon - one of those Democratic lawyers dispatched to Florida to ‘watch’ the election - who suggested the monitors had been too busy verifying the paper ballots to pay attention to the prospect of computerized irregularities (thus, Dean Solomon admitted, “I might have been an unwitting accessory to fraud.”)

The Boston Globe plans a piece on the silence— which still seems more a case of media passivity than conspiracy—in the next few days. Even the Washington Times addressed it yesterday (albeit with the headline “Anti-Bush Internet Site Angles For Election Probe”) by focusing on’s “Investigate the Vote” campaign. Jerrold Nadler of New York, one of six Democratic congressmen who demanded an investigation by the General Accountability Office in the days after the election, says now he anticipates a response from the GAO by the end of this week, and that could stir the pot a little further.

We may even have seen something of a reaction to this story on Fox News. There, our old loofah-wielding friend Bill O’Reilly is at it again, wandering further and further into semi-lucidity and self-contradiction. As reported by Brian Stelter over at TVNewser O’Reilly managed to put himself at direct odds with his own boss, Roger Ailes.

“The Pew Research Center is out with which media was most trusted during the presidential campaign,” O’Reilly stated Monday night. “On the TV side, Fox News wins big… Dead last was MSNBC, which was six percent of Americans trusting them. Obviously they have major problems over there.”

As usual when dealing with the O’Reilly Fact-or-Fiction, he leaves himself so open to fact-checking on so many fronts, that it’s difficult to decide where to thrust the first sword.

Let’s start with the Pew poll. Firstly, it had nothing to do with which media was “most trusted” — it only asked where people got most of their news on the election. And using Fox’s own criteria— they’re right and everybody else ranges from liberal to treasonous— they were cited as the respondents’ primary source by 21%, compared to the NBC/MSNBC/CNBC combination (also 21%), and compared to the combined three broadcast network news departments (29%). The Internet was also cited as a primary source by 21%, suggesting respondents were permitted to give more than one answer. This not only isn’t “Fox News wins big;” using some of the same massaging of numbers O’Reilly is fond of, it’s not even ‘Fox News wins at all.’

Sorry about that “massaging” reference to O’Reilly in there. Poor choice of words.

Most intriguingly, O’Reilly’s employer, Mr. Ailes, recently dismissed the company that did the survey O’Reilly trumpeted so loudly. In its recent piece on the network, "The New York Times" noted that Pew’s June survey reported that 41 percent of Fox News viewers identified themselves as Republicans, and 52 percent of them called themselves Conservatives.

Roger Ailes then told the paper that the Pew Research Center had produced “a totally fraudulent survey done by a bunch of liberals.”

So O’Reilly is reduced to relying on a polling company that his boss believes traffics in ‘totally fraudulent surveys,’ to altering the questions posed by that company to fit his own boasts, and to accepting those numbers he likes from that polling and ignoring the ones he doesn’t.

Sounds like somebody hasn’t had a good falafel in awhile.

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