A harsh new spotlight is falling on the vulgar social media history of ESPN star Keith Olbermann after the network’s parent, Disney, fired Roseanne Barr for a racist tweet.
On Tuesday, ABC pulled the plug on the wildly popular reboot of "Roseanne" after its namesake posted a racist and offensive tweet about former President Obama’s aide and close friend Valerie Jarrett. Last week, ABC’s cable sister, ESPN, announced that anti-Trump pundit Olbermann would return to the network despite a foul-mouthed Twitter account that includes countless offensive remarks directed at the president and his surrogates.
ESPN personality-turned-political commentator Britt McHenry told Fox News that “Olbermann has proven time and time again how irrationally angry, prejudiced, and outright bigoted he truly is,” but none of that apparently matters to Disney executives.
“The message is clear: If you’re a liberal, any free speech is allowed. Same rules don’t apply,” McHenry said.
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).”
While Olbermann is not racist, he can certainly be considered offensive and has used profanity when attacking the president, whom he has called a “Nazi” on a regular basis. In Aug. 2017, Olbermann tweeted at first daughter Ivanka Trump and called her father a “neo-Nazi,” and “racist.” He has also written “f—k you” to Trump numerous times, but ESPN’s newest star doesn’t bother to use the sanitized version of the cuss word.
Conservative talk radio host Ben Ferguson said there was “clearly” a double standard at Disney during a Wednesday morning appearance on CNN, while former ESPN employee Curt Schilling tweeted, “The irony of Disney canning Roseanne while continuing to employ some of the industry’s biggest racist and race baiting frauds… is not lost on most.”
Jedediah Bila recently tweeted that Barr’s comment was “despicable,” and, much like the “Roseanne” namesake, “Olbermann has made awful comments that should make him unemployable by respectable outlets.”
In addition to repeated, over-the-top profanity directed at Trump, Olbermann also once claimed that Trump and his family have done more damage to the U.S. than Usama bin Laden. He was also 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.
Media analyst Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that “nobody should feel sorry for Roseanne,” but “it does seem Disney needs to provide some clarity about what it expects from other employees regarding public civility.”
McCall pointed out that Olbermann has engaged in “name calling and harsh personal attacks and the corporation doesn't seem to mind,” and said he thinks the same rules should apply to “all of their polarizing personalities.”
ESPN was criticized for bringing the polarizing Olbermann back and that was before Barr’s firing resulted in talk of a double standard within Disney regarding who can get away with offensive rhetoric. ESPN has been under fire recently for what many media watchdogs consider a liberal bias and even stood by Jemele Hill last year when she called Trump a “white supremacist.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Shalini Ramachandran published a piece last week about how a “weakened ESPN became consumed by politics,” which details several polarizing decisions the network has made in recent memory. The report notes that conservative ESPN staffers have been “frustrated” by the network’s politics, which include everything from standing by Hill and selecting Caitlyn Jenner for its prestigious “ESPY” award for courage to constant on-air debates over the NFL’s national anthem controversy.
“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,” National Center for Public Policy Research general counsel Justin Danhof told Fox News.
Disney and ESPN did not respond to requests for comment on critics accusing the companies of having a double standard regarding rhetoric by employees.