NEW YORK - MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann admits that viewer e-mail received by the network suggests he may be responsible for causing millions of diehard Fox News viewers, normally conservative Republicans, to vote for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections.
And Fox News host Bill O'Reilly isn't happy about it one bit.
"On Halloween night, just for fun, I thought I'd wear a Bill O'Reilly mask on the air," explained Olbermann. "It was one I originally put on at the Television Critics Association's summer meeting as a joke, so I thought, why not bring it out again for Halloween? It was the scariest thing I could personally think of. To tell the truth, I was a little worried that we'd frighten off our regular viewers, but then I decided "'They're smart people. They'll get the joke.'
"But then we got all this viewer e-mail saying, "I'm so happy MSNBC dumped that Olbermann character and replaced him with Bill O'Reilly. I will follow Bill wherever he is on the dial and listen to whatever he says. You've just won me over from Fox News for good!'
"We realized that these people must have just seen the Big Giant Head on their TV screens and stopped flipping--and most of Orally's viewers are so old that their vision and hearing aren't so good," said Olbermann. "But Dan (MSNBC general manager Dan Abrams) was afraid to tell them they were wrong and lose all the new viewers. So he says to me, 'Keith, do you think it would be so terrible if you just kept wearing that O'Reilly mask for a while?'
"Ever since then, I'd been wearing it on air--even when I gave my Special Comments in which I criticized the Bush Administration and the Republican-dominated Congress. Including when I gave my Special Comment the night before the election, in which I made it pretty clear that if the viewers wanted a new direction, they'd better get out and vote for it.
"How was I to know that because just they thought the Loofah King was telling them to do something, his viewers would actually go out and blindly obey?"
A Fox News spokesman has said that the network is "incensed" that Olbermann used "the handsome face and good reputation" of O'Reilly to "hoodwink Bill's faithful No-Spin Zone viewers into voting against noble terror warriors like Rick Santorum. But at least now we know there's an explanation for why they lost. Their votes were essentially stolen--by a certain network and a certain despicable person whom we will not name. And you had better not name him either, unless you want to get a little phone call from Fox Security.
"We think it's very sad that a mentally unstable man who has failed at everything he has ever done in his career has to steal another man's face and sterling reputation in order to get ratings for his sorry fourth-rate news network. We are sure that the effect will only be temporary, however, as an angry public will eventually catch on and consign him once again to the ratings dumpster, after which Keith will lose his job and eventually end up wandering the streets of New York ragged and disheveled, begging passersby for spare change when not arguing with the imaginary demons conjured up by his schizophrenia. We wish him well."
Abrams says there are "no plans at present" to have Olbermann stop wearing the O'Reilly mask on air. "Are you kidding? Keith's ratings have been going through the roof ever since he started wearing that thing. Not only are we pulling over O'Reilly's viewers, we're keeping the ones we had. They e-mail us saying, "I never thought I'd see Bill O'Reilly spouting common sense on my TV!" and "I can't get my 83-year-old mother to watch Keith Olbermann, but now that she thinks she's watching Bill O'Reilly, I've changed her whole political mindset! Keep up the good work!'"
Although O'Reilly has threatened to sue MSNBC and Olbermann for using his likeness to achieve higher ratings and "deliberately deceive the American public," Olbermann says he's not the least bit concerned.
"In case you haven't noticed, Bill doesn't have the best luck in the world when it comes to the legal system," he said. "First of all, he slapped Al Franken with a lawsuit about using the words 'Fair and Balanced' that got him laughed out of court, and then, well...can you say 'falafel'?"
O'Reilly could not be reached for comment.