ESPN has been under fire recently for what many media watchdogs consider a liberal bias and the network raised eyebrows on Friday by announcing an expanded role for anti-Trump pundit Keith Olbermann.
ESPN announced on Friday that Olbermann will frequently guest anchor the flagship “SportsCenter,” serve as an MLB play-by-play broadcaster, co-host various opinion programs such as “Pardon the Interruption” and guest host ESPN Audio programs.
This is Olbermann’s sixth stint at ESPN and the time in between has been largely spent as a far-left political pundit on MSNBC and an assortment of other networks. Most recently, he anchored an anti-Trump online program for GQ, “The Resistance,” and authored a book titled, “Trump is F*cking Crazy: (This is Not a Joke).”
Olbermann has been among the most outspoken critics of the president in the entire media industry, even moving out of his luxury New York City apartment building because it was owned by Trump. He once claimed that Trump and his family have done more damage to the U.S. than Usama bin Laden. ESPN’s newest star was widely criticized when his anti-Trump book featured a cover image of himself draped in the American flag, which is visibly touching the ground – a violation of U.S. flag code.
Just this week, The Wall Street Journal’s Shalini Ramachandran published a piece about how a “weakened ESPN became consumed by politics,” the details several polarizing decisions the network has made in recent memory. Last year ESPN’s Jemele Hill made headlines by calling President Trump a “white supremacist.”
Ramachandran wrote of the incident, “Mr. Skipper, then ESPN’s president, lit into Ms. Hill, according to people familiar with the meeting. If I punish you, he told her, I’d open us up to protests and come off as racist. If I do nothing, that will fuel a narrative among conservatives — and a faction within ESPN — that the network had become too liberal… Mr. Skipper chose to spare Ms. Hill.”
Skipper is no longer with the network, stepping down in December after a drug dealer attempted to extort him because of an admitted cocaine habit. Hill has since been reassigned and no longer hosts the network’s flagship “SportsCenter.”
Sports talk radio host Clay Travis has been an outspoken critic of ESPN’s politics and took to Twitter to mock the decision to bring Olbermann back.
“This dude’s entire Twitter feed is deranged Tweets like this calling the president a Nazi."
“This dude’s entire Twitter feed is deranged Tweets like this calling the president a Nazi. Not a one time thing, there are hundreds of them,” Travis wrote. "Smart move by @espn to hire one of the most far left wing people in American media to do sports. Definitely proves how fair and balanced they are."
In Aug. 2017, Olbermann tweeted at first daughter Ivanka Trump and called her father a “neo-Nazi,” and “racist.” Olbermann frequently used profanity to criticize President Trump, often referring to him as a “racist f---,” but ESPN’s newest star doesn’t bother to use the sanitized version of the cuss word.
Esteemed media analyst Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that “ESPN continues to insist on forcing social and political issues into the sports arena and expanding Olbermann's role is more evidence” of that.
“Olbermann was once a clever and personable sports broadcaster, but he chose to move into political commentary. He is now identified as a political advocate and it will be very hard for the sports viewers to now view him as a sports guy again. Further, ESPN has to deal with the ongoing critique that it is pushing political agendas, and the expanded role for Olbermann simply adds to the evidence that politics matter more to ESPN than sports,” McCall said.
Back in March, National Center for Public Policy Research general counsel Justin Danhof publically approached Disney CEO Bob Iger about the network’s perceived liberal bias at a shareholder’s meeting, calling ESPN a “24/7 anti-Trump tirade channel.”
Iger responded that he simply didn’t agree with Danhof and quickly moved on.
Danhof told Fox News that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” when asked about the network’s decision to bring back Olbermann.
“That may as well be the model at failing ESPN. In an era of cord-cutting, ESPN just continues to pile problems on itself by continuing its tired trope of liberal programming and moralizing. And when it comes to liberal moralizing, who better than the seemingly-forgotten Keith Olbermann? ESPN’s decision to hire the conservative-bashing blowhard only reinforces what it’s ever-fleeting viewers already know – the network cares more about advancing leftists causes than it does about sports, or, frankly, its own ratings,” Danhof said.
"ESPN’s decision to hire the conservative-bashing blowhard only reinforces what it’s ever-fleeting viewers already know – the network cares more about advancing leftists causes than it does about sports, or, frankly, its own ratings."
Olbermann wrote in Nov. 2017 when he announced he would walk away from his anti-Trump GQ program: “I am confident now, even more so than I have been throughout the last year, that this nightmare presidency of Donald John Trump will end prematurely—and end soon."
ESPN did not immediately respond when asked for comment.