Parent companies give Olbermann and O’Reilly time out

By A. James Memmott

August 3, 2009 at 9:45am

A food fight that has generated viewers and controversy for Fox News and MSNBC has ended.

Or at least it’s supposed to be over.

The New York Times reported Saturday that a truce has been negotiated between Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, the two cable loudmouths who have made no secret of their contempt for each other.

If the truce holds, the right-leaning O’Reilly won’t suggest any more that the left-leaning Olbermann is a “vicious smear merchant.”

Bill O'Reilly
Bill O’Reilly

And Olbermann won’t continually designate O’Reilly “the worst person in the world.”

The men, whose programs air at 8 p.m. E.S.T., will turn their venom on other opponents, the Times reports, their bosses having decided that enough is enough.

Charlie Rose of PBS reportedly brokered this deal by bringing together Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman of G.E., the parent company of NBC, and Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, the owner of Fox News.

After this meeting, representatives of both sides continued to confer until they reached agreement.

Evidently, O’Reilly and Olbermann were not involved in the discussions.

“I was party to no deal,” Olbermann told the Times by e-mail.

He returns from vacation Monday, and some media critics wrote that they not be surprised if he reverted to form.

Indeed, Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times noted that Olbermann and O’Reilly, as well, might not have gotten the memo about the truce.

Olbermann has insulted O’Reilly and Fox News during the ceasefire; O’Reilly has sniped away at NBC and G.E.

“Since Murdoch and Immelt seem unable to get these two to play nice, maybe President Obama can bring them all in for a beer,” Flint wrote.

The Times suggests that Olbermann has gained the most from the feud with O’Reilly, whom he calls “Bill-o the Clown.”

The attacks, which Olbermann began in 2005, have helped his ratings and also gave his program, “Countdown with Keith Olberman,” an identity and an edge.

Nonetheless, O’Reilly’s show, “The O’Reilly Factor” has continued to dominate, his three million viewers far out-reaching Olbermann’s 1 million. (Olbermann narrowed the gap during the 2008 election season but has fallen back.)

While Olbermann has been direct in insulting O’Reilly, O’Reilly has been indirect, never mentioning Olbermann by name.

In 2007, O’Reilly took aim at G.E. for doing business with Iran, a country that was aiding insurgents in Iraq.

“If my child was killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt,” O’Reilly said. His viewers, in turn, expressed their displeasure to G.E.

For its part, the company said that it had decided in 2005 to sever its ties with Iran, some of these being humanitarian efforts. By 2008, it had no business in Iran, the company stated in a news release.

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  • #1.   Matthew Uttal 08.03.2009

    There is an inaccuracy in your piece. you state, “O‚ÄôReilly has been indirect, never mentioning Olbermann by name.” Until early 2006, he mentioned Olbermann by name frequently. In ‘06, in typical Bill O, “throw myself on the floor, hold my breath until I turn blue, stick my fingers in my ears so I can’t hear you style,” Bill banned the name Olbermann from his shows. He vowed never to say the name and “dump” any caller or ban any guest who did. So there!!!

  • #2.   Brenda Haddad 08.03.2009

    Why should O’Reilly lower himself to acknowledge such a “person”? Olbermann never lets facts get in the way of his opinion, never looks at both sides of an issue and never respects anyone’s right to disagree with him! I’ve watched both shows and see the difference. This really isn’t a story because Obamaman’s ratings may have gone up slightly, but he continues to sweep the floor compared to O’Reilly!

  • #3.   No Name 08.11.2009

    Olbermann did some good work on pointing out why we should not be in Iraq. He never touched the real reason why we were there. He should read Buchanan’s “Whose war?”

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