(Editor's note: This story has been updated.)
Keith Olbermann has suspended his Twitter account. The suspension is the result of a Twitter war with followers last night regarding his interview with Julian Assange apologist Michael Moore, and Olbermann's subsequent cavalier attitude toward the rape allegations against the Wikileaker.
Some background. During his interview with Michael Moore the other night Moore referred to the rape charges against Assange as "hooey." Mediaite's Tommy Christopher points out Moore was "clearly referring to Assange’s arrest, not the allegations themselves."
Nevertheless, the site Tigerbeatdown.com launched a campaign calling for Moore to explain himself and apologize and was subsequently blocked on Twitter by Olbermann. The site also called Olbermann to task for re-Tweeting out a link to an article that contained the names of the women accusing Assange of rape.
Still with me?
Subsequently, Olbermann got into a Twitter firestorm with a number of people last night, which I will not bore you with but suffice to say Olbermann was fairly defiant. And then this afternoon he suspended his Twitter account (and removed his profile pic!).
The story gets even more interesting when you realize that Tommy Christopher, mentioned above, was part of the all-out "Twar" (Twitter+war). Here's what he's been writing:
On Tuesday’s Countdown, host Keith Olbermann and guest Michael Moore sparked widespread outrage over their dismissive treatment of rape allegations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. While some of the segment is open to interpretation, Moore made a clear factual error when he said that Assange only stands accused of having his condom break during consensual sex.
Before we go on to the actual war of words, it's important to note that Christopher bases his more-than-a-condom-breaking claim on a sketchy story from the site Feministe (at least that's where he links to):
Well, no, I’m not sure it’s that straightforward. The actual details of what happened are hard to come by, and are largely filtered through tabloid sources that are quick to offer crucial facts like the hair color of the women (blonde) and the clothes they wore (pink, tight), but it sounds like the sex was consensual on the condition that a condom was used. It also sounds like in one case, condom use was negotiated for and Assange agreed to wear a condom but didn’t, and the woman didn’t realize it until after they had sex; in the second case, it sounds like the condom broke and the woman told Assange to stop, which he did not. This is of course speculation based on the bare-bones reported description of events, but it’s at least clear that “this is a case of a broken condom” isn’t close to the whole story. (It’s also worth pointing out that the charge is actually a quite minor one in Sweden, and the punishment is a $700 fine).Withdrawal of consent should be grounds for a rape charge (and it is, in Sweden) — if you consent to having sex with someone and part of the way through you say to stop and the person you’re having sex with continues to have sex with you against your wishes, that’s rape.
That source even admits that "the actual details of what happened are hard to come by," and that those facts "are largely filtered through tabloid sources." I'm hoping Christopher reveals more sources as the story unfolds (or clarifies this one), because for now, the one source he is providing is shaky.*
Back to the war. Christopher provides readers with a tweet-by-tweet account of the exchange between he and Olbermann:
chrisatyoursix I cant wait to watch @KeithOlbermann at 8 to see why @MMFlinthelped bail out an accused rapist. 14 Dec
tommyxtopher @KeithOlbermann @chrisatyoursix Are you saying that holding a woman down after she tells you to stop isn’t rape? (link) Or are u saying that you don’t think Assange has been accused of holding a woman down after she said “stop?” (link)
The Twar quickly degenerated into name calling:
jsmooth995 @KeithOlbermann Your ad hominem jab, even if true, doesn’t negate the substance of his questions. And he’s hardly the only one asking. (link)
Olbermann eventually gave a half-hearted apology. You'll note in that apology (below), he references an accusation made by some that he revealed the identity of one of Assange's accusers. While he may not have done it intentionally, the identity was included in one of the links (as a "re-tweet") he sent out. As Christopher notes, the apology is condensed from five tweets:
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.
You know what happened next -- Olbermann decided to hold his own Twitter account hostage. In the end, that might be best for everyone.
Author's note: A final point. Christopher, I think, was right to go after Olbermann and Moore. Christopher is known as a fair reporter, and he saw something that he didn't agree with and called out those responsible. That's to be commended.
In the Feministe story, I missed an update included at the end. The post actually links to a UK Press Association story saying that "the court heard Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner." That's a very important point, and I apologize for missing it earlier. Here are the charges as reported by the UKPA:
The court heard Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.
The second charge alleged Assange "sexually molested" Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her "express wish" one should be used.
The third charge claimed Assange "deliberately molested" Miss A on August 18 "in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity". The fourth charge accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on August 17 without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.
This seems to give much more weight to Christopher's point.
Christopher sent an e-mail noting that in his first story on the Olbermann/Moore rape conversation, he linked to the UK Press Association article (the UK's version of the Associated Press) above, but also linked to a New York Times article saying something similar. In the original story, I wrote that I hoped Christopher would provide more sources. He has. And I think it's important to read them.