Olbermann's foul-mouthed attack on Secretary DeVos

  • 5 September 2017
  • NormanL
Olbermann's foul-mouthed attack on Secretary DeVos

We usually have no time for media types like Keith Olbermann. But his recent, foul-mouthed Twitter blast aimed at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos got our attention. Not so much for what he said, which was predictably, and indefensibly, crude. What got us was this piece in USA Today, which sought to find out whether Olbermann's corporate masters at GQ Magazine and its parent company, Conde Nast, had anything to say about their employee's outburst:

I tried to ask GQ Editor Jim Nelson about that, but he never replied. Nelson had plenty to say about Olbermann when the former MSNBC host was front-page news in The New York Times business section just weeks before President Trump’s election last fall. “I missed Keith’s rage,” Nelson said back when Olbermann’s GQ videos had only been downloaded 25 million times. “We wanted to add to our political and election coverage. … We felt that no one was meeting Trump at the temperature level that was needed.”

Even a spokesperson for the Condé Nast-owned magazine didn’t have anything to say about GQ’s mysterious “G.” She emailed me: “GQ declines to comment.”

Of course not, because the meaning of the G in GQ is now a corporate secret of the firm that also owns Glamour, Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, a family of magazines “renowned for producing the highest quality content for the world's most influential audiences.”

Flinging foul language at a member of the Cabinet must be some seriously high-quality content because nobody at GQ or Condé Nast said anything about the colorfully worded tweet even as it was shared 19,000 times and liked 52,000 more over 48 hours. A few Trump-friendlywebsites got all priggish, but not one mainstream journalist on the media beat bothered to write an article.

And to be fair, a lot more important things were going on in the country then, just as they are right now. At a time when Trump’s recklessness and deadly flooding are dominating the news, journalists don’t have time to cover trivial things like Melania Trump’s high heels. And there’s certainly not time for things that happen every day, like Melania Trump’s high heels. Oh … wait …

Anyhoo, when nobody wrote about Olbermann’s vulgarity by Monday, I kinda thought that was odd, so I sent a couple emails hoping to ask a few questions of the GQ editor and Bob Sauerberg, CEO of Condé Nast. Almost five hours later, not a peep.

That changed when I started asking my questions on Twitter. Suddenly the GQ PR folks got responsive. Within minutes, a representative was on the phone requesting to speak off the record. Now, I can’t tell you what he said about one of GQ’s most prominent public faces, but I can tell you what I said.

What eventually happened was the appearance of an Olbermann apology. Well, not really an apology so much as another middle finger to the White House...and a plug for Olbermann's new book:

I apologize without reservation to @BetsyDeVosED for the gutter language. I'll reserve it for people who truly deserve it. pic.twitter.com/M83BFBQ2Uy
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) August 28, 2017

At first glance, Olbermann's words sound like a solid apology, except for three things:

The promo for his F-bomb-titled book is bigger than the apology.
Olbermann left up his post calling DeVos that word.
And if you read carefully, he promises to keep that gutter language coming. He’ll just be more judicious.

That disturbed individuals like Olbermann continue to find media outlets willing to give airtime and publicity to their personal demons is a sad commentary on the media. And very likely, things will only get worse.