Cornell alumnus, liberal pundit and media personality Keith Olbermann (College of Arts and Life Sciences, ’79) took college smack talk too far in the past two days.On Feb. 23, Penn State alumna Lisa DeLeon (@lisaadeleon) tweeted “We Are!” at Olbermann’s account with a link to a Daily Collegian article about Penn State’s Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils efforts to raise over $13 million through their THON 2015 fundraiser. Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) replied “… Pitiful”, apparently ridiculing a student body that raised massive funds to support children with pediatric cancer.
After Olbermann’s tweet elicited anger from Penn State students and alumni, he went on a juvenile twitter spree, mocking user’s grammar and education. Olbermann called Penn State students “moron[s]” and concluded, “I’d like to thank the students and alums of Penn State for proving my point about the mediocrity of their education and ethics.”
Twitter user @psurn29 attempted to put Olbermann’s actions in perspective, tweeting, “@Olbermann you a pitiful human being. PSU students raised 13 mill for kids with cancer.” Instead of realizing that he was, after all, mocking students who raised $13 million for children suffering from pediatric cancer, Olbermann instead again criticized his critic’s grammar, tweeting, “‘You are’ or ‘you’re’” to point out @psurn29’s error.
Yesterday afternoon, ESPN suspended Olbermann from hosting his ESPN2 show for the rest of the week. Olbermann tweeted out a brief apology in response, which stated: “I apologize for the PSU tweets. I was stupid and childish and way less mature than the students there who did such a great fundraising job.”
Olbermann earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from the College of Arts and Life Sciences (CALS) in 1979, far before the dawn of social media and related public relations fiascos. The lessons he learned apparently did not transfer well into the digital age.
Olbermann has faced media controversy a few times previously. In 2009, Olbermann publicly battled with Cornell alumna and conservative pundit Ann Coulter (College of Arts and Sciences, ’84) called into question the quality of Olbermann’s CALS degree, joking that Olbermann “went to the Old MacDonald Cornell” in a column on anncoulter.com. In 2011, MSNBC terminated Olbermann’s contract to host Countdown with Keith Olbermann, possibly due to his breach of company policy in donating to political candidates without managerial approval.
Olbermann’s series of derogatory tweets was not his first misstep that landed him under network discipline, and they probably will not be his last. He may be known for a few weeks as the anchor who ridiculed students for raising money to battle pediatric cancer, but at least he can console himself with his proper grammar.