MSNBC's Prime-Time Star Continues to Fail To Get the Story Right.
Offers Some Explanation, But Ignores Most Troubling BRAD BLOG Charges.
By Brad Friedman on 12/27/2004, 4:38pm PT  

It's amazing how irresponsible some members of the so-called "Mainstream Media" can be. Even while they sniff at us lowly "bloggers" and "Internet-only news sites" for what many of them see as a lack of journalistic integrity, failing to provide proper context for stories and reporting information without properly vetting or confirming it first.

It's hard to argue with those criticisms towards many Internet blogs and news sites. But it's equally hard to stomach it when we've seen so many similar failings from the Mainstream Media themselves. And when they screw the pooch --- from their much larger media platforms --- the consequences can be much more disastrous.

Case in point, the now infamous failings of the New York Times' Judith Miller in her reporting running up to --- and arguably helping America towards --- the war in Iraq based on highly suspect or out and out misinformation. I don't wish to pile on there, but it's a case where the Mainstream Media failed to properly vet anonymous sources, give the appropriate context, and the results were, to say the least, somewhat disastrous for this country. That is just one such example, and an easy one to point to for context.

And then we have MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who, as we pointed out several days ago, ran a disastrously irresponsible piece on his MSNBC run "Bloggermann" site. So disastrous, in fact, that even a Countdown producer we spoke with about it refused to stand by the report above and beyond saying "This was Keith Olbermann's writing. He didn't work with me or anyone else on this."

As we reported, the most reprehensible failing in Olbermann's original quick hit piece on Clint Curtis (scroll down to item #4 at this link) was that he allowed an unnamed anonymous source, (described as "the attorney for the firm for whom Mr. Curtis worked") to suggest that Clint Curtis "has previously threatened the firm and its top officers, in writing, and that they were sufficiently concerned to file a police report as a result."

We pointed out in our reply to what amounted to little more than a smear piece by Olbermann that at the very least, since this anonymous attorney claimed there was a threat "in writing", that Olbermann should have reviewed that purported "writing" before passing on the information from an anonymous source. (By the way, that would have been at least the third response on these matters from either Yang Enterprises Inc. [YEI] or their Attorneys, but the first time they've bothered to mention a written threat and/or police report in re: Clint Curtis...make of that what you will).

Neither did Olbermann bother to even check with the Oveido Police Department --- where YEI is located --- to confirm if in fact such a report had been filed.

It probably now goes without saying, that Olbermann didn't bother to get comment from Curtis at all on any of the matters he reported on, though one would think that a responsible journalist would have at least attempted to do so before posting such scurrilous allegations.

Well today, Olbermann decided to comment again on his blog, to what he described as "a handful of e-mails" complaining about his coverage last week on this story. That comment is linked here (scroll down to the bulleted text).

Since I'm busy working on actual reporting of the rapidly moving events in this whole troubling story, I'll allow the bulk of his comments, sorry as they may be, to stand on their own. (See the red "Special Coverage" sidebar at right, for the key articles published by The BRAD BLOG on the Clint Curtis/Tom Feeney/Yang Enterprises Inc. matter so far.)

But two items are very noteworthy, and I'd be remiss if I did not point them out. With vigor...

1) Olbermann makes no attempt at explaining, or apologizing for his egregious journalistic lapse in passing on unconfirmed slurs, accusing someone of written (and therefore confirmable) threats from unnamed sources as described above. He doesn't answer to those charges in any way, and we'd suggest there's likely a good reason for that. There is no excuse for such reprehensible dereliction.

For the record, we have attempted for the last week since Olbermann's short article, to confirm such a report made with the Oviedo Police. While their Public Information Officer was out sick for the bulk of last week, the staffer he asked to look into it has so far not turned up such a report. That PIO, now back on the job, continues to look into the matter however, and we will report what, if anything, is found from the Oviedo Police.

We will, as well, attempt to contact Michael O'Quinn the "outside general counsel" for YEI who has previously commented on the record in this matter, to see if he may have any further information to provide. We hope to find out if, for example, if the "police report" was filed in a jurisdiction other than Oviedo. As we've pointed out several times --- though most others, including Olbermann, have failed to --- O'Quinn is both a YEI attorney and the former law partner of, and current campaign contributor to --- along with the Yang's --- Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL) who is at the center of this swirling controversy. Context for you. As it should be.

2) In regard to the unsubstantiated "disgruntled employee" charge that Olbermann helped continue to float --- again with no evidence to support it --- and the "Farewell Card" given to Curtis by the company at the "Farewell Party" thrown on his behalf, Olbermann said this:

Lastly (and, for my money, most entertainingly): I noted that an attorney for Curtis's former employers, for whom he was working when he claims to have been asked to develop the nefarious program, described him to MSNBC as a ?disgruntled former employee.' However, an e-mailer writes, at the time of his departure from the firm, the company gave him a going-away card. I had to smile at this evidence. When I left ESPN in 1997, the company gave me a tape of my oddest moments on the air, a huge farewell banner, and a going-away party that lasted until sunrise and was so joyous that the authorities were summoned. Still, I have to be the first one to say it: if anybody has the right to call me a ?disgruntled former employee,' it's ESPN.

Fair enough, sir.

Though we wonder, did the CEO of ESPN at the time sign such a card to you with anything like the phrase "Good luck and the door will be open for you when you need", as the CEO of YEI did on Curtis' card?

Also, did the CEO of the ESPN hand you a check on the way out the door as "traveling money" and as thanks for staying on six weeks after your resignation date as a personal favor to them while they found someone else to fill your job?

Just curious.

Feel free to let us know in your next column in which you explain why you're not reporting on this story, but do us the favor of answering to the charges we made against your work in the first place.

Until then, I hope the responsible members of the "Mainstream Media" --- and I'd suggest that includes the bulk of them --- might hold their pens before smashing up "the blogs" and "Internet-only news sites" exclusively for failing to cross all their T's and dot all their I's. If we are guilty of that --- and many of us no-doubt are --- I hope you'll remember to note your "Mainstream" brethren who are equally, if not more, guilty to that same charge.

In the meantime, we will again take the opportunity to note that in the three weeks and thousands of words we've published here on this affair since first breaking this story, we've yet to have a single word pointed out to us as either demonstrably untrue or incorrect in any way.

The BRAD BLOG is justifiably proud of that record as long as it continues to hold up. Particularly given the wide range and enormous scope of this story. We only wish that Olbermann and several others could say the same for themselves.

(More actual reporting coming soon on this developing story...)

...CONTACT...
Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's Countdown
Email: KOlbermann@MSNBC.com