Even though conservative columnist Robert Novak was talked about and attacked many times on MSNBC's Countdown show - especially as host Keith Olbermann frequently devoted time to the Valerie Plame case - the MSNBC host did not take time this week to report on Novak's passing. In fact, even though he reported on Novak's hit-and-run car accident last year just before Novak's brain cancer diagnosis and portrayed him negatively, Olbermann never revisited the story to inform viewers that his illness was the likely cause of the conservative columnist's erratic behavior.
And when Olbermann launched his Countdown show's regular "Worst Person in the World" segment on June 30, 2005, the very first recipient of the number one "Worst Person" dishonor was Novak, because of his role in the Valerie Plame leak case, even though the story at that point was two years old. Olbermann: "We still know what you did last summer. Well, summer before last summer." His dislike of Novak was so great, that Olbermann even included him again in the next night's "Worst Person" segment in the number two position, calling him a "holdover."
Over the next couple of years, Novak was included in the "Worst Person" segment two additional times. In one case, Olbermann suggested that Novak would definitely go to hell as he quoted former Ambassador Joe Wilson's accusation that Novak had lied about a phone call between the two of them:
KEITH OLBERMANN: Ambassador Wilson confirms the phone call happened and says the only reference to his wife was when he told Novak to stop telling people in Washington that she worked at the agency, that it compromised their safety and it was treasonous. "I hope he's going to confession," Wilson says of Novak, "because, if not, he's surely going to hell for his lies." Ambassador, I'm guessing that ship has sailed
When Novak was involved in the hit-and-run car accident just before his brain cancer diagnosis, on the July 24, 2008, Countdown show, Olbermann seized on the story to portray the conservative columnist in a negative light, inviting aboard Joel McHale of E!'s "The Soup" to discuss the case, and Novak's subsequent harrassment by TMZ.com. Olbermann wondered if one should walk away and let Novak and TMZ.com burn if they were on fire, while McHale suggested they should "kill each other" like "Alien Versus Predator":
KEITH OLBERMANN: If Robert Novak and TMZ.com are both on fire, do you, do you, do you walk away and hold it in, as they say?
JOEL MCHALE, HOST OF "THE SOUP": Yes, it`s very much like "Alien Versus Predator," and you just hope for the sake of humanity they kill each other.
Since Olbermann devoted time to Novak's hit-and-run accident, he essentially ceased all discussion of Novak on his, and never mentioned the conservative columnist's illness or death.
According to a Nexis search, since July 24, 2008, Novak's name was only mentioned once - just in passing - when, on July 13, 2009, Olbermann recounted a controversy over racist comments at Free Republic and a subsequent "call to action to flood the e-mail accounts of a list of the main stream media people, people like Don Imus of MSNBC, the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and Paula Zahn and Bill Hemmer and Tucker Carlson and Robert Novak of CNN."
By contrast, after the death of Tony Snow, who was also a target of Olbermann as President Bush's spokesman whom the MSNBC host once even accused of "bald-faced lying," Olbermann did at least take time to express condolences on his show.
Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Countdown shows mentioned above that involved Novak:
# From June 30, 2005:
KEITH OLBERMANN: But first, a new feature debuting tonight, Countdown's list of today`s top three new nominees for the "Worst Person in the World." Number three, Alessandra Stanley, TV writer or critic or something, it`s hard to tell what, at the New York Times. As her latest article suggests, if she keeps passing off that many dubious opinions as anonymous facts, she may soon lose her situation
Number two, Saddam Hussein. This is separate from the whole dictator thing. He has now threatened to sue the newspaper that first ran the photo of him in his underwear. As its headline today ran, "You and what army?"
And number one, Robert Novak. We still know what did you last summer. Well, summer before last summer. The "Worst Person in the World!"
# From July 1, 2005# From August 8, 2007:
KEITH OLBERMANN: First, day two of our new feature, Countdown`s list of the nominees for today's "Worst Person in the World. There`s the New York state assemblyman Willis Stevens. He was monitoring one of those online discussion groups, 300 of his constituents in the city of Brewster, when he decided to send an e-mail to one of his assistants. He hit the wrong button. Instead, he sent it to all 300 people in the group. The e-mail read, "Just watching the idiots pontificate."
Number two, a holdover from yesterday, a holdover. Robert Novak, still one of the worst people in the world.
And the winner - oh, it's Tom Cruise! And this has got nothing to do with Brooke Shields or psychiatry or the movie. He has another controversy running. Asked by the German tabloid "Bildt" if he believed in aliens, Cruise snapped at this guy, too. "Yes, of course. Are you really so arrogant as to believe we are alone in this universe?" Maybe Tom is from another planet. Regardless, that does not disqualify you from being Countdown`s "Worst Person in the World
KEITH OLBERMANN: The runner-up this evening, columnist Robert Novak, bristling at descriptions as - oh, I don't know - an unthinking, toady water carrier, who isn't sharp enough to realize Karl Rove manipulated him into doing the administration's dirty work. Quoting Mr. Novak, "I don't support this administration. The President has cut me off the list of conservative columnists that are invited there. They consider me a lot of trouble. Every administration has considered me a lot of trouble. We start good, particularly with Republican administrations, but it's like a bad marriage. It starts nice after the honeymoon and it just gets worse."
We will take you at your word, sir, which should lead you to the inevitable conclusion that the administration will repeatedly, happily throw even its strongest supporters under the bus
# From October 9, 2007:
KEITH OLBERMANN: The bronze to Robert Novak now insisting that Ambassador Joseph Wilson did not forcefully object to the outing of his wife`s CIA identity when Novak called him to get a quote for the column in 2003. "He was not terribly exercised about it."
Ambassador Wilson confirms the phone call happened and says the only reference to his wife was when he told Novak to stop telling people in Washington that she worked at the agency, that it compromised their safety and it was treasonous. "I hope he's going to confession," Wilson says of Novak, "because, if not, he's surely going to hell for his lies."
Ambassador, I`m guessing that ship has sailed.
# From July 24, 2008:
KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: And the "Prince of Darkness" drives into a pedestrian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still going to be like that with jaywalkers or are you going to give them a break? Do you still want to be a race track driver?
OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN, DURING PLUG: The 66-year-old pedestrian was "sort of splayed across the windshield" of Robert Novak`s corvette, but the most observant man in Washington didn`t know he'd hit anybody. There's that collision, then the other one between politics and the paparazzi. Who better but Joel McHale of "The Soup" to assess?
OLBERMANN: Columnist and right-wing pundit Robert Novak has had a curious week. First, the "Prince of Darkness" was used to float a bogus rumor that Senator McCain would announce his vice presidential choice this week. He neglected to notice that Mrs. McCain was out of the country, and the required happy couple's photo-op would have been impossible. Then Novak hit a pedestrian with his car. Our number one story on the Countdown, Novak says he had no idea, and he kept on driving, even though the pedestrian was reportedly "splayed across" the front half of Novak`s convertible. "The Soup`s" Joel McHale will join us presently to discuss the surreal life into which Novak has entered. In fact, Joel is sitting right over there.
Traveling north bound on 18th Street Northwest, near K Street, Novak driving his corvette, hits a 66-year-old pedestrian, who is identified as Don Linkolnqvist. The victim was not seriously injured, and Novak got only a $50 traffic citation for failing to yield. But Novak reportedly tried to leave the scene of the accident, kept driving for a block after the accident before finally being flagged down by a witness on a bicycle. Novak said the bicyclist was, quote, "shouting at me that I couldn`t just hit people and drive away. But I didn`t know I'd hit the pedestrian." The witness said, quoting, "I see the guy go up on the hood, on the windshield. The guy rolled off the hood and landed on the street." Novak said he felt terrible, but, quote, "he`s not dead. That`s the main thing." Speaking of feeling terrible, Novak then experienced a hit-and-run of a figurative kind, courtesy TMZ.com.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still going to be like that with J-walkers or are you going to give them a break? Are you going to be okay with pedestrians now? Do you still want to be a race car driver? Do you think you`ll give up that corvette and drive a minivan?
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, as promised, the host of the pop cultural show of record, "The Soup," Joel McHale. Good to see you, sir.
JOEL MCHALE, "THE SOUP": Should we pretend there's a satellite delay?
OLBERMANN: Oh, it's all right. Just, pause like that.
OLBERMANN: If Robert Novak and TMZ.com are both on fire, do you, do you, do you walk away and hold it in, as they say?
MCHALE: Yes, it`s very much like "Alien Versus Predator," and you just hope for the sake of humanity they kill each other.
OLBERMANN: How did these two really disparate elements of the world run into each other?
MCHALE: It`s finally happened, much to the chagrin of news agencies and Access Hollywood, that they have now merged, and Novak will now be seen hanging out with Britney smoking or hugging Lindsay.
OLBERMANN: Obama`s speech in Germany was like the lead story on Access Hollywood today.
MCHALE: Well, he was wearing an awesome suit, I think.
OLBERMANN: So was Brian Williams, the same one. All right, is more, back to the Novak story, this quote from 2001 from the Washington Post, Novak said, "I really hate J-walkers. I despise them. Since I don`t run the country, all I can do is yell at them. The other option is to run them over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that." Oops.
MCHALE: Yeah, no, but he`s a compassionate conservative. He yells at them and then he hits them. An uncompassionate conservative hits them, yells at them, backs over them to make sure they`re dead.
OLBERMANN: Joe and Valerie Wilson weighed in on this story. There's a statement saying that they should take the keys away from Novak, along with his typewriter.
MCHALE: I`m glad they weighed in.
OLBERMANN: Why? Why not just leave this alone?
MCHALE: Well, it also turned out that Novak said there was yellow cake uranium in his trunk. And then that, of course, turned out to be false.
OLBERMANN: And in the pedestrian, too, whether it was after he hit him. Let`s change and go up to a couple of more purely entertainment topics, as opposed to the entertainment that is Robert Novak. A favorite of yours, Omarosa, and how about this, we have a clip.
[AFTER DISCUSSING AN INTERVIEW WITH OMAROSA, OLBERMANN TURNS THE DISCUSSION TO CHRISTIAN BALE'S ARREST]
OLBERMANN: Christian Bale, this was starting out to be a really good week for him, and then his sister asked for financial help, a fight ensued and he wound up pushing them both.
MCHALE: He pushed his mom.
OLBERMANN: And he`s under arrest.
MCHALE: Well, I wish people would get it through their heads that Batman`s mother is dead. So is his father. And they were run down in an alley by a crazy gray-haired man driving a corvette.
OLBERMANN: Which was the whole start of the thing.
MCHALE: That`s how it started, Robert Novak running them down.
OLBERMANN: It was Robert Novak.
MCHALE: Yes, just out of nowhere. He`s crazy.
OLBERMANN: We have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who sold these baby photographs for, you know, the gross national product of Brazil. But now there are unauthorized baby pictures, and they may have to sue over them.
MCHALE: Yes, I have a newborn, Keith, and it is so difficult. I mean, do you know how difficult it is to keep track of unauthorized photographs? For me, it`s actually - as I think about it, it's quite easy. I actually use my child as a human shield against photographers and they still won`t publish them.
OLBERMANN: Martin Sheen in "The Dead Zone."
MCHALE: Yes, in "The Dead Zone." I use them and they just, they don`t see me. They just see the baby.
OLBERMANN: And now we know what Robert Novak failed to do while he was being photographed by TMZ, just grab a child and hold it up to the camera.
MCHALE: Right, he could have used mine. I would have rented him out.
OLBERMANN: Joe McHale, host of "The Soup" on E!, new each Friday night. Have you got any guest star cameos this week?
MCHALE: Well, we've got Simon Peg and then this newsman from NBC. Yes, catch Keith on "The Soup."
OLBERMANN: Yes, my last performance ever in broadcasting.
MCHALE: He`s legitimizing our show.
OLBERMANN: Well, I`m going to try. That`s Countdown for this the, thanks for coming in.
MCHALE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And then I`ll go over to your studio. That`s Countdown for this, the 1,912th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.
MCHALE: We`re going to pay you as much as you pay me.
OLBERMANN: There you go. I have change for a quarter. From Los Angeles, I`m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.