Keith Olbermann's feud with Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. media properties reached a bitter new milestone today when the MSNBC Countdown host smacked Murdoch's Post for a forthcoming gossip item that will, he said, allege that fellow MSNBC-er Chris Matthews was jockeying to succeed Tim Russert as host of Meet The Press at a memorial event for Russert yesterday. The item will also reportedly say that Olbermann has threatened to quit if he doesn't get Russert's job himself. Olbermann leapt to sometime-rival Matthews' defense, saying the Hardball host was asked by an acquaintance at the event about succession and immediately shut the conversation down. As for himself, Olbermann denied he had demanded to replace Russert and said he was, in any case, unqualified (though any savvy and honest successor would attach that caveat). The Page Six reporter working on the item, Paula Froelich, was awarded Countdown's "Worst Person In The World" title for the night, which will teach her a very important lesson: Do not call TV people for comment until after their shows have aired. Clip after the jump.
Update: So the Post has posted the Page Six item Keith Olbermann was so worked up about yesterday, and it does indeed say Hardball host Chris Matthews "seemed" to be talking about a strategy for landing Tim Russert's job at a memorial event for the NBC personality, and that Olbermann is threatening to quit if he doesn't get Russert's Meet The Press job. (On Countdown, Olbermann denied issuing an ultimatum for Meet The Press and said Matthews shut down talk of him replacing Russert when an acquaintance brought it up.) But the gossip item also quotes a source, ostensibly from the traditional broadcast side of NBC News, who claims that Russert himself wanted NBC News political director Chuck Todd as his own replacement, and that the network will never install someone from MSNBC on the show. The insider said, "They're cable. They're far too partisan. They have no gravitas. If gravitas is eight letters, they're about seven letters short."
Even more than the opinionated Matthews, Olbermann, with his long "special comments," has forced open a wedge at NBC News between the cable and broadcast side. (The division was explored, among other places, in this week's New Yorker profile of Olbermann.) It appears as though Meet The Press is the latest battlefield in this civil war, which in turn implies that, though Olbermann lashed out at longtime enemies Murdoch and Page Six over the Russert memorial gossip, the stories may very well have originated not with anyone from News Corp. but from a fellow denizen of 30 Rock, the NBC headquarters.
Update: Paula Froelich of Page Six responds: "I am honored and chuffed that someone with such a severe case of malignant self-obsession as Keith Olbermann would say I am the Worst Person in the World for June 19, 2008. Apparently I, by writing a true story about his ambitions, trumped the atrocities committed by Robert Mugabe, Than Swe, Boris Boyarskov (he wasn't in the news yesterday but I generally think he's a pretty bad guy and assume he did something bad), Ratko Mladic, Hugo Chavez, and his own beloved Dick Cheney. (Notice I didn't say what these people do — Olbermann will have to expand his scope beyond his own being to figure it out. Heres a hint, darling: one is the vice-president of the United States of America). Perhaps Keith, who is as infantile as he is narcissistic, should preach to his viewers about things that actually matter to them, rather than himself. But then again, there are only 300,000 of them. The FLDS has more members."