MSNBC host Keith Olbermann's biting mockery of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is beginning to draw strong rebukes, even from his normally staunch allies in the left-leaning blogosphere.
In fact, one liberal blogger suggested that Olbermann took a perverse glee in reciting Sanford's failings.
On his Tuesday program, Olbermann read extensive personal e-mails Sanford reputedly sent to his paramour.
Olbermann prefaced his presentation with the gibe: "If you think [Gov.] Sanford's news conference was remarkable, how 'bout those e-mails?"
Olbermann then proceeded to read private communications from Sanford published by The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C. He punctuated Sanford's heartfelt missives with sneers, eerie background music, and mocking asides.
By Wednesday, even critics on the left said Olbermann had gone too far.
"Keith Olbermann made Rush Limbaugh look like Albert Schweitzer tonight on his program," wrote Larry Wohlgemuth on The Daily Kos site. "Have you no decency man?"
Wohlgemuth made his dislike for Sanford plain, calling him "the worst of what the Republican Party has to offer and the antithesis of anything this country might need." Yet he lambasted Olbermann for not considering that Sanford's wife and children might well be watching his program.
"It was the kind of childish and hurtful thing done by 12-and 13-year olds, and Olbermann should know better," he wrote.
Another voice calling for restraint in the public keelhauling of Sanford is coming from Lanny Davis, who served as a special counsel to former President Clinton.
"I have empathy for Gov. Sanford and his family," Davis, a Newsmax columnist who runs the Legal Crisis Management Group for the Washington, D.C., office of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, told Newsmax via e-mail. "Anyone who enjoys or makes fun on TV of the governor in the midst of his pain and humiliation over a human weakness is not doing what I would do."
While not mentioning the Olbermann broadcast, actor Alec Baldwin also weighed in.
"The rest of the world is about to kick this country right where it counts when it decides to go off the dollar as the reserve currency," Baldwin wrote on HuffingtonPost.com, "and you want to spend five minutes over the fact that Sanford was cheating on his wife?"
Baldwin's advice to his ideological brethren: "Don't take the bait. Move on."
Olbermann's publicist declined a Newsmax request for the host's reaction to the growing controversy over his depiction of Sanford's affair.
Jeff McCall, an author and professor of mass communication at DePauw University in Indiana, tells Newsmax that Olbermann may have strayed too far from how Sanford's admitted infidelity affected his official responsibilities as governor of South Carolina.
"I believe Olbermann's critics sensed that the coverage was too focused on Sanford's personal failings, trying to use the situation to generate humor and sensationalism at Sanford's expense. It seems to me that the critics of Olbermann's treatment of Sanford have sensed the irony of left-leaning commentator taking delight in reporting a Republican politician's personal problems," McCall tells Newsmax, "when the response by many on the left to the troubles of [former President] Clinton and [Democratic presidential contender John] Edwards, for example, was to play the story down as 'just sex,' or that a personal problem of a government official should remain a personal matter."
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