…on the other, Olbermann.

If you want to show that Fox News’s Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann represent opposite sides of a “divide,” offering “perspectives on the campaign that sometimes approach mirror images,” surely there are better examples than the ones Howard Kurtz uses in his Washington Post column today. (Unless Kurtz is trying, in a roundabout way, to highlight the problems with false equivalence in reporting?)

In painting Olbermann as the left’s equivalent of Sean Hannity (or Hannity as the Olbermann of the right) — both being “so determined to play to their base that the broader reality can be hard to discern”—Kurtz kicks off his article with this:

On Fox News last week, Sean Hannity said he was tempted to ask Barack Obama: “Where did you buy your cocaine, how much cocaine? How much cocaine did you use? How often did you use it? When did you stop?”

On the same Monday night, Keith Olbermann said on MSNBC that John McCain had a responsibility “to say ‘enough’ to Republican smears without end” and not be “party to a campaign that devolves into hatred and prejudice and divisiveness.”

Suggesting one candidate may have been (not so long ago?) a cokehead (shades of When did you stop beating your wife?) and contending that the other candidate’s campaign is smearing without end. Totally equivalent! Or, close enough.

More mirror imagery? “Each host has pitched softballs to his preferred candidate,” reports Kurtz. Examples:

On Sept. 8, Olbermann asked Obama: “Have you thought of using, on the campaign trail and in your speaking engagements, more exclamation points? Have you thought of getting angrier?”


On Oct. 8, Hannity asked McCain and Palin: “Do you really believe that Senator Obama is prepared to be president of the United States? … Is he being dishonest, not truthful with the American people? … Should the American people be concerned that he’s capable in a post-9/11 world of fighting terrorism when he is friends with an unrepentant terrorist?”

Not hard questions, Olbermann’s. More suggestions, of sorts. Hannity’s, while also not hard for his preferred candidates to answer, were wrapped in scary accusations/insinuations about the opposing candidate.

Same thing.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.