MSNBC Exec: Olbermann’s Shift Left ‘Isn’t a Strategy’

The Houston Chronicle reports that, in an interview, Phil Griffin, who oversees MSNBC’s primetime lineup, "reject[ed] the notion that MSNBC has used [Keith Olbermann’s] show and others as part of a deliberately more contrarian tone toward the Bush administration as an alternative to Fox News Channel."

Mr. Griffin told the paper: "Keith was doing this show before it was popular to beat up on this president or to beat up on this war … Because of his point of view and the ‘Special Comments,’ people think this is our strategy. This isn’t a strategy. This is Keith."

But two months ago, The Times reported:

Riding a ratings wave from "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," a program that takes strong issue with the Bush administration, MSNBC is increasingly seeking to showcase its nighttime lineup as a welcome haven for viewers of a similar mind.

The story went on to detail the network’s (ultimately unsuccessful) efforts to sign Rosie O’Donnell, and characterized the rest of the primetime lineup, featuring Chris Matthews and Dan Abrams, as one in which "the White House takes a regular beating."

Mr. Olbermann may indeed be the person driving the anti-Bush direction of his show, as Mr. Griffin argues. But MSNBC’s broader shift would appear to go beyond its most popular anchor.