Home » , , , , , , » All About the O's: Olbermann vs. O'Reilly Smackdown Makes Front Page of The Washington Post! But Wait--Is This More Than Just a Tabloid Tussle?

All About the O's: Olbermann vs. O'Reilly Smackdown Makes Front Page of The Washington Post! But Wait--Is This More Than Just a Tabloid Tussle?

Written By mista sense on Monday, May 19, 2008 | 5:20 AM

There it is, big as life--or at least as big as the shrunken front page of the much downsized and bought-out Washington Post this morning. Under the headline, "Feud Fuels Bill O'Reilly's Blasts at GE"Post-man Howard Kurtz provides some scoops about the extraordinary escalation of the Keith Olbermann vs. Bill O'Reilly feud.

As Cable Gamers know, the two O-men have been ripping into each other for years. Olbermann, for example, routinely awards O'Reilly his nightly "worst person in the world" award--except when he is giving that dubious achievement award to Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and others he associates with "Fixed News," and "Fox Noise."

For his part, O'Reilly has responded, not so much by fighting with Olbermann, but by going after Olbermann's ultimate corporate boss, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, calling him "a pinhead" and "despicable," just as he is getting warmed up, as O'Reilly rips into GE's relationship with the terror-state of Iran.

OK, that's just cable-news hardball, back and forth, right? Well, no. Olbermann and O'Reilly have a right not to like each other, but there is an empirical question: Is General Electric doing business with Iran? And the answer clearly, is yes. Even Kurtz, while clearly preferring the "colorful feud" angle, acknowledges:

GE has long had a corporate presence in Iran, which U.S. officials say is providing weapons and training for Shiite militias in the Iraq conflict. Under growing criticism from the public and its own shareholders, GE announced in 2005 that it would accept no new business in Iran and would wind down existing contracts, which mostly involved sales of oil, gas and energy and health-care equipment. The remaining work, valued at less than $50 million, amounts to less than .01 percent of GE's income, and the company says the final four contracts will expire within weeks.

And Kurtz cites Tom Borelli, a portfolio manager and dissident GE shareholder, telling Immelt, at a GE annual meeting, that the company's products are keeping Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "comfy when he's plotting to kill U.S. troops and trying to annihilate Israel. It's just an outrage."

Interestingly, there hasn't been much coverage of this whole story--the MSM is strangely uninterested, for example? Could it be that reporters don't want to suggest, in any way, that George W. Bush might have something of an argument when he says that we are fighting terrorists in Iraq sot hat we don't have to fight them elsewhere? Or could it be that GE, which owns NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC, is simply so big that other MSMers are intimidated?

Those are interesting questions--no, actually, they are important questions. Vital questions. If GE is really is helping the Iranian regime--and why put the "if," since it's an empirical fact that GE is trading with Iran--then that's an outrage that transcends the to-ing and fro-ing of the Cable Game.

I should stop there, but I do have just one more thing on my mind: GE shareholders should be mindful that none of this controversy is doing them any good. This blogger, The Reasoned Skeptic, makes the point that GE has been hurt financially by all this ruckus. And when I see that GE stock is at 32, I think that surely somebody is going to come and rescue shareholders from this worst of both of both worlds--an amoral relationship with an American enemy, as well as poor economic performance.

So forget Olbermann. The real issue is Immelt.

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