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Posted at 4:08 PM ET, 12/16/2010

Keith Olbermann and the Twitter 'frenzy' over the word 'rape'

By Melissa Bell
Olbermann
(MSNBC/AP)

Keith Olbermann has called it quits. On Thursday afternoon, the talk show host announced he would be suspending his account on Twitter "until/if this frenzy is stopped." The frenzy? An outpouring of anger on Twitter over the words "rape" and "hooey" and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It all goes to show the confusion and uncertainty swirling around the accusations leveled at Assange.

Assange is accused of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion of two women in Sweden. "He's accused of pinning one woman's arms and using his body weight to hold her down during an alleged assault, and of raping a woman while she was sleeping," The Post's Jessica Valenti wrote in an article comparing Sweden's laws to the U.S.

Valenti wrote:

Everyone from Fox News's Glenn Beck to feminist writer Naomi Wolf is getting in swipes. Beck told viewers that Assange is being investigated for "sex by surprise" (again, not a real law) because of a "radical" feminist bent on revenge. Wolf wrote a snarking letter to Interpol in the Huffington Post, arguing that the accusers are using feminism to "assuage . . . personal injured feelings." And AOL News writer Dana Kennedy dismissed the incidents as a simple "condom malfunction." Now, we don't know if Assange is guilty or innocent -- but we do know that the accusations against him have been badly reported, misconstrued and generally pooh-poohed.

Olbermann got involved in the debate when filmmaker Michael Moore appeared on Olbermann's show to discuss why he was supporting Assange's fight for bail. At the end of the 15-minute interview, Olbermann asked how Moore felt about supporting a man accused of rape.

Moore's answer: The man deserves a fair trial. He said:

This whole thing stinks to the high heavens.... They go after people with this kind of lie and smear.... What they say he did... his condom broke during consensual sex; that is not a crime in Britain. This is all a bunch of hooey, as far as I'm concerned. The man has at least a right to be out of prison while awaiting his hearing.

Here's his full comment:

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Bloggers seized on his statements, asserting that they were as good as saying the women making the accusations should not be believed.

On the blog Tiger Beatdown, the writer Sady said:

So, here are some cheerful statistics for you: According to RAINN [Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network], about 60% of rapes aren't reported. In those cases, there's about a 51% chance that the 40% of reported rapes will have an arrest made. There's an 80% chance of prosecution. And, given various factors including conviction and sentencing, there's only about a 16.3% chance that someone who commits rape will serve time for that rape. Meaning: If we factor in the rapes that go unreported, only 6% of rapists ever serve time. EVER.

The blog started a Twitter hashtag, called #MooreandMe and called for its readers to write to Moore on Twitter and ask for an apology.

While Moore stayed silent on the issue, Olbermann got in on the discussion, telling users to look into the charges brought against Assange. He also retweeted a link to an article in an Australian newspaper that questioned the charges.

The anger directed at Moore began to focus on Olbermann. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite writes:

Obviously, no decent person is immune to the horror of sexual abuse, at least anyone who knows six or more women. In the macro, Olbermann and Moore stand accused of allowing their zeal to defend Assange to override that empathy. Specifically, though, they have made a factual error regarding the accusations (not the "charges," not the guilt or innocence thereof) against Julian Assange. Both owe a correction, and without it, apologies are worthless.

As the day progressed, Olbermann issued an apology on Twitter:

Rape has touched my family, directly and savagely, and if anybody thinks I have addressed it without full sensitivity, then that assessment is the one that counts, and I apologize. But these accusations that I "revealed" an accuser's identity by retweeting Bianca Jagger's link, or that I 'shamed' an accuser by asking a question about the prosecution of a man governments are trying to bury, or that I do not 'understand' charges that have yet to be presented in their final form, reflect exactly the kind of rushing to judgment of which I'm accused, and merit the same kind of apology I have just given.

Thirteen hours later, he announced he would be suspending his account. Olbermann will likely address the incident on his television show, but the whole debate gets at the difficulty the press has been having reporting about Assange and the charges leveled against him in Sweden.

What do you make of the situation?

By Melissa Bell  | December 16, 2010; 4:08 PM ET
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Comments

regarding the allegations of RAPE;

provide proof, or walk away.

women get away with this all too often, crying "wolf", after they enjoyed being attacked.

Call it instability, call it regrets, and SOME CALL IT "an easy, handy way to keep him behind bars - a simple rape/abuse claim".

After all, aren't all men RAPISTS?

If something like PROOF of abuse, or PROOF of a crime is entered into the record, that is damning evidence.

But so far, it appears the courts all over the western world just take her word as truth, and his as false.

There's a thing called due process, and this fellow's getting NONE of it.

Provide Proof - or it DIDN'T HAPPEN.

Posted by: pgibson1 | December 16, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

The whole sex circus in Sweden is a charade.
Feminist activist not least the third female prosecutor and the older girl who joined the mob and cried wolf, sorry rape, after first talking the younger girl to consult with a female polis if it was possible to force the "culprit" to make a test for HIV. It all ended up that the three female agreed to call it a rape. the last prosecutor, also female have written a most extraordinary paper when working on a law proposal against sexual encounter outside marriage and seriously suggested that whenever a male was accused of rape the male should be arrested in order for the woman to think of the situation in calm. When the male was exonerated of any attempts of rape there was to be no repercussions and an excuse was not necessary. How the prosecutor could be allowed to remain in the legal system is beyond comprehension. I hope both the girls and the prosecutor get heavy fines, and the girls should be imprisoned.

Posted by: jibsail | December 16, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Too many are making too many assumptions about the charges. Ideally, we should all just let justice go forward but that probably won't happen because Assange is a great hero to anti-anything-Americans from the right to the left in this country and outside and given his penchant for considering himself above the law it's difficult to believe that he will ever appear in Sweden to answer for the alleged crimes. Money will bail him out.

In the interim, it's all just hype and noise.

Posted by: TomMiller1 | December 16, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Wait, people still watch this clown?

Posted by: jameskim99 | December 16, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

My God. Julian Assange walked into a honey-trap. How difficult is this to see?
I'd like to ask if, in the history of Interpol, whether any suspect ever accused of any kind of rape ever had an "international manhunt" directed at them for that crime?
I blame the media (CNN, Fox, MSNBC and even NPR) for consistently repeating this obvious frame up over and over and over again without asking the obvious questions.
Although questioning the veracity of these accusations should never be confused with trivializing the crime of rape, this is often what happens to those who are skeptical.
And it is because of this (coupled with the near impossibility to prove right or wrong), that sexual crimes are the most often used by intelligence services in a frame up.

Posted by: DCGiantsFan | December 16, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

The US now has two successive administrations (those of Bush and Obama) acting badly by behaving vindictively towards those people who meet with its disapproval.

Under Bush, the US rounded up anyone who was handed over to the US in Afghanistan with the accusation that they were terrorists. The war lords received $10,000 for each person that they delivered to the CIA and/or military.

Subsequently, the detainees were locked up, held without charge, their families were not notified and the military was unconcerned with whether or not the detainees had injured or not injured the US in any way. Although hundreds were subsequently released years later because they had not harmed the US and did not constitute a threat to the US the US did not offer them compensation or an apology.

Similarly, the US resents the release of the wikileaks documents (all of which are low level) because they expose deceit and cruelty on the part of the US government along with puerile and questionable statements about foreign politicians. The result is to characterise Assange and Wikileaks as dangerous and evil.

Evidence has not been offered by the Obama Administration to support its claims of dangerous wrongdoing. We are asked to accept the government's proclamations without challenge. Many Americans have done so and the most irrational behave like a vigilante mob because they want Assange lynched without a trial being held.

The behaviour of the US indicts the US as a vindictive and punitive nation whose decisions are determined by their violent emotions and not by their fundamental principles.

It doesn't matter how the US dresses up its case against Assange because the fact is it has one rule for American citizens and another for Assange. It ignores the Pentagon Papers precedent and the notions of free speech, freedom of the press and the right of the public to know what has gone on.

Although the US lectures the world on human rights it ignores its own lectures and seeks unimpeded freedom to abuse individuals. For instance, it kidnapped el-Masri, a German tourist in Macedonia, took him to Afghanistan, tortured him and sodomised him until it accepted that it had detained the wrong person as a consequence of a mix-up. This fellow was left by the side of the road in Armenia.

Obama has described Assange's actions as deplorable and that justifies 'getting him'. Apparently, however, the US does not want its own people put on trial when, as agents of the US government, they engage in deplorable behaviour.

Double Standards are abhorrent but the US doesn't care. It lurches from one abuse to another and its rate of acting badly is accelerating and increasing.

Shame on the US and goodwill and thanks to Assange and his colleagues at Wikileaks.

Posted by: robertjames1 | December 16, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse


ASSANGE SHOULD PROVIDE PROVIDE PAINFULLY PRECISE DESCRIPTIONS OF THEIR ALLEGED SEXUAL ENCOUNTER- WITH DETAILS ABOUT THEIR PROWESS OR LACK THEREOF, AND DETAILS ABOUT THEIR GENITALIA- INCLUDING HYGIENE. IF THIS DOESN'T DISCOURAGE FALSE ACCUSATIONS- NOTHING WILL.

Posted by: Xavisev | December 16, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I do not have any knowledge of the Swedish criminal or investigatory systems. However, Assange cooperated with the Police when the complaints were investigated. Eventually, the Police advised Assange that they were satisfied that the complaints had been fully investigated and that he was free to leave Sweden.

In those circumstances, the actions of the Swedish government appear to be heavy handed. I wonder why they did not pursue any issues by speaking to him by telephone in relation to any queries that subsequently arose.

Posted by: robertjames1 | December 16, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

It's pure blasphemy to apply the word "rape" -- a serious term used to describe something that happens between strangers -- to a completely different situation in which the woman not only knows the man involved, but also finds him somewhat attractive (otherwise she wouldn't have consented to sex).

In addition, it's important to note that Sweden is a crazily feminist country.

Posted by: eugene8 | December 16, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

only evildoers and criminals have something to hide,the world is not about hating USA,the western world,Asia or any country or its nationals,we are talking about those criminals who committed crimes in the name of their governments,country,religions and so on.Mr. Assange provided proofs to show the world the evil deeds of those criminals and these evildoers cried foul and could get away free,for the time being and but without proof those evildoers try to nail Julian to the Cross. Is this the world we want to live in,??Still the same since they crucified the Son of God,Yeshua, for what? It was written in your Holy book and it shall be done, your GOD is watching.
Democratic governments...let former USA- Vice-President Al Gore tells how he was cheated,by the bush-clan.Democratic nations hated communism and so on, this is a Free World, democracy means human beings are free to choose how they want to live.Who has the rights to say otherwise?Korean war, Vietnam war and many other wars were fought for what?Now,the so called free nations are doing Big Business with the Big Red China,still a communist nation.Now again it is the free nations led-by US former president bush 's War against Terrorism.The World citizens are not fools, please for heaven's sake,don't make a fool out of your GOD, Judgement and Justice will come and soon to the good folks and those who have something to hide.

May Peace be with you all.

Posted by: marikow326peacemakers | December 16, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

It's a bit of a worry to read so many hateful comments from people who clearly have a problem with women.

If any of you bothered to read the other Washington Post article, you would have learned that the women who accused him, came forward in OCTOBER. Until Mr. Assange irked the world with his careless, and inelegant information dump, apparently the police were prepared to let a possible rapist walk.

Shame on you people who have such hatred toward any woman willing to come forward and point out the monsters among us. I assume you don't have sisters, wives or mothers to worry about. Must be nice.

Posted by: catweasel3 | December 16, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

By the way Eugene8 - Rape is the act of forcing a person into a sexual encounter. A husband can rape a wife, a father can rape a daughter, a (rotten) friend can rape friend. Rape is not something that only happens between strangers.

If a woman begins a sexual encounter with a man, and she finds that he does not have a condom or she gets a headache, or she simply changes her mind, she can say "no - stop." If he continues, that is rape.

By "feminist country", I take it you mean that they treat women like human beings.

Posted by: catweasel3 | December 16, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

The exchange between Moore and Olbermann the other night was an exercise in sheer irresponsibility, little more than a casual dismissal of the accusations against Assange, and an (undeserved) vilification of the women who made the claims.

Unfortunately I hear and read the same talking points recycled again and again by those who are hasty to defend Assange: a misrepresentation of the reported facts as merely The Case of the Broken Condom. All in all, a disgusting display by people who ought to know better.

Posted by: AnotherHagman | December 16, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Just when does US laws or the laws of any other country supercede the laws of Sweden? Does the court system in Sweden have the right to bring charges for crimes committed in their country or do they have to have a majority of "stars" or "external persons" agree with them before they can?

Posted by: Jimof1913 | December 16, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

I guess in Sweden every ambiguous cry of "rape" results in red alerts, an international man hunt, jail without charge, solitary confinement, appeals to the high court and bail of over $300 000?

It is a “glimpse of the obvious” to say that this “stinks to the high heavens”… Do they really think that anyone is buying any of this?

Posted by: NJ12 | December 17, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

This is absolutely comical. Two women have gone to the police in Sweden and sufficiently convinced them that the alleged perpetrator should be extradited and tried for the incidents. But the Moores and Olbermans of the world either dismiss the accusations or demand that they air their stories so they can be tried in the court of hypercharged public opinion. I for one would much more respect Assange if he would present himself in Sweden for questioning. But he is above that. You would think someone as smart as him would have had the sense to refrain from bedding (and possibly raping) strange women after pissing off half the nations of the world. But he is too in love with himself to exercise any adult restraint.

Posted by: West_Seattle | December 17, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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