On Thursday, Twitter was atwitter and blogs were abuzz about Keith Olbermann's embarrassing "Worst Person" fail, following a post by Greg Pollowitz at National Review Online highlighting the hilarity. Olbermann named Twitter his "Worst Person in the World" because he mistakenly believed he wasn't on Twitter. He was. So I thought I'd do something that Olbermann's entire staff consistently fails to do: research.
The first lapse in research you already know about. Keith predicated his entire segment on the notion that he had no Twitter account, therefore the account in his name was fraudulent. Of course, it wasn't true. MSNBC ran the Twitter account in Keith's name. But believe me, this is only the beginning of an epic fail.
Did Olbermann Tweet His Anti-Twitter Screed?
I'm going to summarize up front. It's too good to drag out. Not only is Olbermann wrong about being on Twitter, he's twice wrong. His own show runs a very active Twitter feed. As in, in addition to the one Olbermann was on about. The person who he smeared as a fraud and a Fox News operative is not who Olbermann thinks he is. Even the email to Olbermann may not be what he thinks it is. In short, there was virtually no factual statement from Keith's mouth when he named Twitter "Worst Person" and called the account a fraud. (I bet you wonder if any of Keith's accounts were Tweeting on the day of the story aren't you? Keep reading.)
Here's the relevant portion of the transcript:
But our winner is Twitter. I told you this was trouble. I find out today that I have 13,900 some odd followers on Twitter. I‘m not on Twitter. I tried to sign up last summer and abandoned the project. I found this out when I got a piece of junk e-mail today, at my address, from some outfit trying to barnacle on to the Twitter process. Though it was my address, it had somebody else‘s name on it, possibly whoever was perpetuating the fraud. The subject line read "Dan Cooper Media, local Tweet request." And the e-mail began, "hi Dan Cooper Media."
Who is Dan Cooper and why would he be getting spam e-mail about my fake Twitter account? He is one of the five architects of Fox News.
Video is below the fold. Suffice it to say, the delivery and expression made it clear that Olbermann was suggesting a nefarious Fox News plot to defame him via Twitter. Yes, seriously. If you think it's funny now, what until you hear what Dan Cooper has to say.
Who Is Dan Cooper And What Did He Know?
The matter came to my attention Saturday morning, March 21, 2009, when I received a call from a friend who had just watched the previous night's Countdown on his DVR. My friend replayed the DVR audio over the phone so I could hear Keith Olbermann's words. - Dan Cooper
Dan Cooper has his own Twitter feed, but is not otherwise involved with Twitter. Dan is a Democrat and a media professional. Let me tell you something that Google and I know about Dan that Keith overlooked. Last January he published online the prologue to a book titled "Naked Launch" here. It's about Fox News, which indeed he was instrumental in founding. Here's an excerpt:
Rupert Murdoch hired Roger Ailes to brainwash America into thinking right-wing ideology is actually the political center. And he did. And, I'm ashamed to tell you, I helped him.
Yeah, boy Keith. You are right, sounds like a guy who loves Fox News, doesn't it?
You see, not only was Olbermann wrong about the Twitter account, but his fantasy that it was collusion by Fox News would easily have been dispelled with two little tools I like to call "keyboard and mouse."
The Damage Being Done
It's no small thing, this smear. Word spread fast on left blogs and left tweets that the Olbermann account was a fake. Who is Dan Cooper and why is he impersonating Olbermann? The idea that Fox News was smearing Olbermann through a fake Twitter account was too salacious not to repeat across the web. I asked Dan, considering his career is in media, whether he was suffering any harmful fallout:
It is extremely damaging, both to my business and emotional state. Never in my life have I been accused of shoddy journalism. Let alone of such activity as violating the rules of a web site, as happened here. Far more important, I am at a critical point in the launching of a new media venture, and taking the time to deal with Keith Olbermann's insanity and NBC's lack of ethics and irresponsibility has cost me valuable time and energy. I do not, and have never, colluded with Fox News. I have never impersonated Keith Olbermann.
Dan is right, it is not only a serious and spurious charge by Olbermann, but one that is uniquely damaging to Dan in his position, both as a media professional and as someone who is publicly opposing the network he is now accused of colluding with. Neither the network nor Keith have issued a retraction or apology. I asked Dan if that meant the harm was ongoing, despite the humiliating exposure of Keith's gross inaccuracies:
That harm is indeed ongoing. I am in conversations with NBC attorney Steve Chung about resolving this. His approach is threatening.
I have no expectation nor even the desire for NBC to correct the record. I don't trust NBC News to get anything straight. And as for KO, people who have known him for many years have told me he will never apologize nor correct anything he says.
The Curious Case Of Olbermann Twitters
This is, believe it or not, still not the end of the story. The Twitter feed that Keith thought was impersonating with intent to defame was run by MSNBC as you know. What you may not have known until now was that his own show also ran a feed, @CountDownMSNBC. From here:
But that's not all. It turns out Olbermann is on Twitter through an account called @countdownmsnbc. The profile is a combined feed of MSNBC show clips, and Olbermann's blog entries and is operated by Countdown staffers, but not Olbermann.
I haven't been able to get Twitter to confirm this absolutely, but the evidence is pretty conclusive. It's actively promoting the show, it's named for the show, and sometime after Keith's story aired, perhaps around the time that Twitter exposed Keith's slander, both Twitter accounts were shut down. I think it's safe to assume that it was an official Twitter account. Of course, with the accounts shut down, we don't know what they said. Or do we?
Lucky for me, unlike Keith and his staff I've used the internet before. Google cache is a glorious thing. Not only was Keith on Twitter, and on there twice, but he was actively tweeting. Check this screenshot from the day before his "report" (click to view full):
Yep. Tweeting on March 19th. I've asked Twitter for information on how long the accounts were active and for other information, but no luck so far.
"And if you think you are following me on Twitter, you‘re not. I‘m not on Twitter. It‘s a fake. And Twitter won‘t do anything about it." - Keith Olbermann, show open, March 20th.
Seems to me that if Twitter shut down the accounts, they are indeed doing something about it. Even though, you know, the accounts were actually legitimate.
Unbelievably, this still gets better!
Click on the image to view full size. And, yes, that is what it looks like. Countdown Tweeted the link to the very segment where Olbermann names Twitter "Worst Person In The World!" The link is no good now, though, the segment has been pulled from the MSNBC site. Wonder why?
How Did This Happen?
So what started all this? An email to Olbermann with Dan Cooper's name in it. I asked Dan if he had any theories about who might have been the source of the email. I also asked Twitter for comment on the email but haven't heard back. Here's what Dan had to say:
After a week of intense detective work I believe I have discovered the identity of the person who sent the email in question to KO. I made the connection this morning. It seems to pan out, and I'm speaking as an actual, not "fake" journalist.
The sender of the email appears to be a young, college-age woman. This woman is a diehard Democratic activist. She is a tireless supporter of President Obama, his cabinet and staff, and of many other Democratic politicians. The young woman is an ardent fan of Keith Olbermann, of Countdown, and watches Countdown and Olbermann's hosting of major events on MSNBC. This woman is a "follower" and fan of mine on Twitter. I admire her dedication, intelligence and youthful spunk as well. We do not know each other personally, and have never communicated outside of Twitter. It is my guess that her purpose in sending the email to Olbermann was to urge him to "follow" me, dancoopermedia, on Twitter. And that's all there is to it. Everything else is a fever dream in Keith Olbermann's noggin.
The internet is not a truck. It's, it's a series of tubes!
Not only is Olbermann's total lack of research and complete absence of journalistic curiosity exposed by this story, his familiarity with the internet is decidedly at question. "I‘m not on Twitter. I tried to sign up last summer and abandoned the project." Tried to sign up? Project?! Remember the frenzy about McCain being technology illiterate? Just asking.
You know, it's not for nothing that journolist trashed Olbermann, but I'm starting to think he wouldn't have understood the list in the first place. Any day now we might see Olbermann's Worst Person be: "... the gentleman from Nigeria. You, sir, have failed to return my emails. Indeed, not only have you and the Prime Minister you so recently worked for refused to deposit my 100,000 euros, you have withdrawn a great deal of my own money!"
The incompetence that led to Keith Olbermann naming Twitter the "Worst Person in the World" is staggering. He smeared the popular service, Fox News, and a fellow liberal Democrat enemy of Fox News, all because he got an email he didn't understand, about a technology he didn't understand, and neither he nor his staff did a click of research.
There is no better summary to this comedy of errors than that of Dan Cooper himself:
"What goes on at MSNBC is astounding, disgusting, and has been so under successive administrations."
- Caleb Howe, Redstate.com