Last year Chris Matthews said that Keith Olbermann was “very smart” to pick a fight with cable-ratings giant Bill O’Reilly. “You pick a fight with someone higher up the system, and then they respond, and you are equals.” At the time, Matthews said his plan was to aim higher and try to pick a fight with Dick Cheney, but on Sunday Matthews showed that he’s not above taking shots at O’Reilly either:
During the year-end awards edition of his weekly syndicated chat show, Chris Matthews asked his panel to vote on the “Dangerous Despot” of 2006, and then listed the nominees: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, Venezuelan boss Hugo Chavez, Iran’s nuclear-seeking threat Mahmoud Ahmedinejad — and Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly!
“How in the hell did this guy get in there?” Matthews asked in mock surprise as O’Reilly’s face popped up next to America’s worst enemies. “How did he get in there?”
Later in the same discussion, BBC Washington Correspondent Katty Kay pointed out “there’s a despot missing from this crowd, too, and that’s [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” who is suspected of ordering the killings of political opponents.
“We bumped him for O’Reilly,” Matthews interjected, eliciting laughter from the rest of the panel. “What do you think?”
I’m curious: Is it official MSNBC policy now to attack Bill O’Reilly as some sort of strategy for competing with Fox News, ratings-wise? If so, is a strategy of frequently and publicly attacking a rival network’s star anchor unprecedented in television news?