THE PLANK AUGUST 7, 2009
Yesterday, Keith Olbermann released the following statement to TV Newser about former Newsweek writer Richard Wolffe’s current position with the corporate PR firm Public Strategies, Inc.:
The bloggers are leaving one component out, unfairly so: In April, I knew vaguely that Richard Wolffe had gone to work for a non-news firm, and that's about the last I heard of it. It was entirely concurrent with my mother's fatal illness, and I turned it over entirely to my management team. My first awareness that this was more than just a non-news job, was this week. If Jonathan Berr, whoever he is, does not like my prioritizing caring for my mother and dealing with her death, and then doing as many shows as I could, ahead of vetting the comments of our analysts and my management team, frankly, I feel sorry for him. Getting myself through those two months were, and are, more important than what is still being investigated about Richard."
In the week since questions were first raised about Wolffe’s guest hosting of “Countdown,” Olbermann has said he did not know the full extent of Wolffe’s PR job. He wrote to Daily Kos on Monday that he “was caught flat-footed" and did "not know what the truth is."
A person close to Wolffe told me that there has never been any secret about his employment at Public Strategies. “We/he were fully disclosed to NBC,” the source said. “This has become an issue within NBC.” Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine that Olbermann and his producers didn’t know about Wolffe’s affiliation. He listed it in his author bio at the Daily Beast, where he has contributed regularly since March 19. And it even appears on his Wikipedia page since April 20. Some of Wolffe's Public Strategies colleagues attended his book party in Washington on June 11, which was co-hosted by Wolffe's friend, Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, and attended by NBC staffers including Gregory's producer Betsy Fischer, correspondent Savannah Guthrie, Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker, and MNBC host Davd Shuster.
MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines declined to comment on whether Olbermann’s producers had ever briefed him on Wolffe’s new job. Wolffe is traveling in Italy and declined to comment.