The Gawker/Olbermann Battle over Mancow’s Waterboarding Continues

John Cook of Gawker posted a response today to Keith Olbermann and Mancow’s assertion last night that the shock jock’s waterboarding was not faked. Cook stuck by his claims that the waterboarding was faked for Mancow to get publicity.

Here is the video of Olbermann and Mancow on Countdown:

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Cook responded to Olbermann’s claim that he was being used, and didn’t thoroughly check his sources, “That’s a lie. Our night editor verified Shafran’s e-mail with her directly and included her response in the story. We called Muller to get his side of the story and published it. We called South to get his story, and published it. We e-mailed Olbermann for his comment, and we called his MSNBC publicist for hers. Olbermann is living in a fantasy world where malicious bloggers spread lies about him without doing any legwork. We did more reporting on Muller’s alleged waterboarding than he or his staff did.”

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Here is the problem with Cook’s claim. They didn’t call Mancow’s bosses at the radio station. They never checked to see if the radio station set conditions for this stunt. They never called the police to see if they had turned down any requests to carry out the stunt. If he is an investigative journalist, shouldn’t he have sought to verify the facts through a third party source? They verified the emails, but did they check the motives of the emailer, or the permissions granted by anyone higher up than the participants?

The crux of Cook’s skepticism is that Muller has faked things before, so he is probably faking again, “In the end, there are two incontrovertible data points here: That Muller’s publicist called the thing a hoax and said Muller intended to pretend he was drowning, and that the guy doing the waterboarding was by his own admission as unqualified to perform the procedure as one could possibly be. Muller’s attempts to explain away the first one consist of little more than dubious rhetorical loop-de-loops from a professional provocateur and publicity-hound who has provided, over the years, innumerable reasons why he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. And nobody disputes the second. Even if Muller didn’t deliberately orchestrate this whole stunt from the beginning, it’s clear that whatever happened to him doesn’t qualify as waterboarding in any recognizable sense of the word.”

The problem with Cook’s statement is that there are no published official rules on waterboarding. Technically, as long as it is water and a board, it is waterboarding. The key here is that Mancow Muller never claimed that his stunt was simulating Gitmo, so I don’t see how his stunt doesn’t qualify as waterboarding when there are no established universal techniques. If you could find a proper how to waterboard guide, then Cook’s point is valid.

What this debate comes down to is the definition of waterboarding. I think it is much easier to rig a test to prove that it isn’t waterboarding than it is to fake a real waterboarding. What is really going on here is that Olbermann and Gawker have been fighting with each other for years now. Gawker thinks that Olbermann is an out of control ego maniac, and Olbermann thinks that Gawker is nothing but a half assed gossip site.

As far as who is right on the story of Mancow’s waterboarding goes, it is possible that they are both right. Gawker was correct to point out that this was designed to be a hoax, and this wasn’t a Gitmo style waterboarding. Olbermann is right, because there are no defined step by step criteria for a waterboarding. As long as the person is on a board, and water is flooding into the lungs, it is waterboarding. This is really just the next step in the Gawker/Olbermann feud.

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