In case you ever wondered how small skirmishes escalate into a World War, check out Howie Kurtz's long piece today detailing how the rivalry between MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly has spiraled out of control to the point where Bill-O recently aired a graphic comparing the chairman of MSNBC's ultimate parent General Electric to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
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."
Nobody comes off looking particularly good here. Part of the problem, it seems, is that the Olbermann-O-Reilly feud could have been fun, except that Bill-O doesn't want to give Olbermann the recognition or the publicity, so instead he only goes after Keith's higher-ups. On the other hand, General Electric has always been a company that needed more media scrutiny -- so maybe in the end the feud's not such a bad thing. The threat by Ailes to use the post against Olbermann and the MSNBC corporate food chain is a little alarming, but not surprising, It might give a little more ammo to folks worried about media consolidation, however.