Network Feud Fuels O'Reilly Attacks on GE, Olbermann
There's an interesting article by Howard Kurtz in today's Washington Post detailing how a feud between TV pundits has morphed into a proxy battle between executives at the highest levels of Fox News and NBC. That feud is in large part fueling the recent attacks by Bill O'Reilly on the GE corporation:
Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News star, is mounting an extraordinary televised assault on the chief executive of General Electric, calling him a "pinhead" and a "despicable human being" who bears responsibility for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq.
On the surface, O'Reilly's charges revolve around GE's history of doing business with Iran. But the attacks grow out of an increasingly bitter feud between O'Reilly and the company's high-profile subsidiary, NBC, one that has triggered back-channel discussions involving News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker and General Electric's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt.
Ailes called Zucker on his cellphone last summer, clearly agitated over a slam against him by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. According to sources familiar with the conversation, Ailes warned that if Olbermann didn't stop such attacks against Fox, he would unleash O'Reilly against NBC and would use the New York Post as well.
Both Fox and the Post are owned by Murdoch, who complained about Olbermann's conduct in separate calls to Zucker and Immelt.
The high-level appeals failed, and O'Reilly has escalated his criticism of GE in recent weeks, declaring, "If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt."Not to whitewash GE's record on Iran, which I know little about, but I think Attaturk at FireDogLake has the proper response the Bill-O's attacks. That's all secondary, though. The real meat of the piece outlines how the O'Reilly/Olbermann feud has become something of a proxy war between executives at the highest levels of both networks struggling for a ceasefire, even as they disclaim any responsibility for the escalation of rhetoric on the part of Olbermann and O'Reilly.