Keith Olbermann Insults Bill O'Reilly Ahead of Current TV Show Debut

Keith Olbermann
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"I think Bill has lost a little on his fast ball," says Olbermann, who also warns people not to be critical of his first-night ratings.

Keith Olbermann’s Countdown returns Monday on a new network (Current TV). But it will feature many familiar faces (Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, David Shuster as primary substitute anchor) and familiar elements (“Worst Persons”). Many of Olbermann’s fans also expect it to include a continuation of Olbermann’s feud with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly. But in a conference call with reporters on Friday, Olbermann tempered those expectations.

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Disputing the term “feud,” Olbermann said: “Twice he tried to use my name on the air and only once did he succeed in pronouncing it correctly. He chose, therefore, never to mention it again on the air. So it’s not necessarily a feud if the other guy won’t say who he’s talking about. I’ve never viewed it as some sort of feud or some sort of back and forth. The reasons that I have mentioned him on the air in the past were the reasons that I would mention him on the air again; there was something so outlandishly untrue, negative, against the democracy, against free speech, against portions of society, that it merited analysis.”

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Olbermann added that it was former MSNBC colleague Nora O’Donnell who first suggested Olbermann examine some of O’Reilly’s statements back in 2003, when Olbermann had just returned to MSNBC. O’Donnell yesterday was named chief White House correspondent at CBS News.

“I think Bill has lost a little on his fast ball,” said Olbermann. “So I suspect we will have O’Reilly mentions but probably fewer of them, just because he doesn’t carry the water that well anymore for them.”

Olbermann also announced more contributors for Countdown. Among them: actor Donald Sutherland, whom Olbermann described as “a friend.” Sutherland joins another Hollywood personality, comedian Richard Lewis, who was previously announced as a contributor.

Sutherland, said Olbermann, will occasionally appear on the show, which bows Monday at 8 p.m., to discuss non-political topics.

Additional contributors announced Friday include: Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, which was previously reported by the Hollywood Reporter; Mother Jones energy and environmental reporter Kate Sheppard; investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, who has written extensively about private military contractor Blackwater; John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon; Heather McGhee, director of the Washington office of Demos; Jonathan Turley, law professor at The George Washington University School of Law; and comedian and activist Maysoon Zayid.

Many of them appeared on Olbermann’s previous show on MSNBC including Dean, who Olbermann called “a good friend and, in my mind, a great American.”

He ended the conference call with a “special comment” on the ratings expectations for his Current show. The network is in 60 million homes and last quarter averaged 30,000 viewers in primetime.

“You’re going to hear a lot about ratings from my former employers,” he said. “I just want to caution you that there were periods of time in 2003 at an established 24-hour-a-day all news network in its seventh year of operation, that Countdown was at a total audience of about 200,000. And that was six months into the show. And there were various stages, well into the development of the show – four or five years – where the butt of jokes in the industry and in many of your columns, were the ratings at that network. And what I would like to encourage everybody to remember…the ratings for Monday night will be about Monday night’s show.”

Olbermann added that his ratings barometer will come with the 2012 presidential election and beyond.

“We’re in this for the long haul. We‘re in this to build a 24-hour-a-day operation. So right now any ratings spin that you see coming out of any operation, including our own, is ratings spin, which is in a more common vernacular strictly bulls--t.”