Book of Tens 2011

The Year's Most Epic Media Feuds

From Bill Keller vs. Arianna Huffington to a Sassy Teen Tweeter, These People Got Down and Dirty in 2011

By Published on .

Bill Keller vs. Arianna Huffington
In a March New York Times Magazine column, outgoing New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller took on media pirates, singling out "queen of aggregation" Arianna Huffington, "who has discovered that if you take celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos, posts from unpaid bloggers and news reports from other publications, array them on your website and add a left-wing soundtrack, millions of people will come." Huffington called Keller's column "as lame as it is laughable" while pointing out that "The Huffington Post and AOL News have over 70% more unique visitors than the New York Times," in a post ghost-written by an unpaid celebrity kitten ... or something like that .

MSNBC vs. Keith Olbermann
In January, midway through his four-year, $30 million contract, Keith Olbermann declared, in a Friday evening broadcast of his "Countdown" show on MSNBC, that he'd just been told that "This will be the last edition of your show." Rumor has it new MSNBC owner Kabletown told Jack Donaghy that Olbermann had to go, but we're not entirely sure because Liz Lemon hasn't returned our phone calls since she went on maternity leave.

"Glee" Auteur vs. Kings of Leon
"Glee" creator Ryan Murphy did not like that Kings of Leon declined to give his show permission to use their music. "Fuck you, Kings of Leon," he told The Hollywood Reporter last winter, suggesting that the alt-rock band was somehow depriving the (prototypical?) "7-year-old kid" of music education. To which KOL drummer Nathan Followill tweeted, "Dear Ryan Murphy, let it go. See a therapist, get a manicure, buy a new bra ..."

Donald Trump vs. The Media
In a March letter to the editor of The New York Times, Donald Trump said of columnist Gail Collins, "Her story-telling ability and word usage is not at a very high level." He also declared Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner to be a "bad writer!" And in the fall he called Jon Stewart a racist for making fun of Herman Cain. Then that thing crawled off Trump's head, bit Stewart in the face, peed on Weiner's lawn and tried to mate with Collins' cat before Animal Control was called.

Credit: Fred Harper

Facebook vs. Google
The first rule of Fight Club is : You do not talk about Fight Club. Alas, Facebook missed the memo. In May, after USA Today called shenanigans on PR firm Burson-Marsteller for its "whisper campaign" attempt at planting negative stories about Google+, The Daily Beast got Facebook to admit it had hired Burson-Marsteller ("Facebook Busted in Clumsy Smear on Google" is how the Beast headlined its report). Facebook wanted the media to tar Google+ for (drumroll, please!) privacy violations. Also, did you notice Google's ass totally looks huge in those jeans? Burson-Marsteller didn't want to say anything, but ...

Sam Brownback vs. a Sassy Teen Tweeter
In November, 18-year-old Emma Sullivan tweeted that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback "sucked" and that "in person #heblowsalot" after he spoke at her school. Naturally, the governor's aides, hard at work monitoring Twitter -- Kansas faces no graver threat than impolite teenagers -- contacted Sullivan's school, which promptly told her to apologize. She refused! (Turns out the school had accidentally taught her about free speech.) What happened next is the only happy ending in this entire list of epic media feuds: Brownback blinked. "My staff overreacted to this tweet," he said, "and for that I apologize." Then the school district called it a "teachable moment," for which they really should apologize.

John McCain vs. Glenn Beck
In May, after blogger/political daughter Meghan McCain filmed a skin-cancer-awareness PSA in a strapless tube top, broadcaster/chalk-dust huffer Glenn Beck mimed vomiting on his show and told her to "Put some extra clothes on. Like, lots of extra clothes ... Has she thought about a burqa, just to be extra safe?" In a blog post, McCain trashed Beck's "sexist rant about my weight and physical appearance," while noting that (zing!) "I heard your show was canceled."

Michael Arrington vs. AOL
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington kept chewing on his AOL leash for much of the year before announcing in the fall that he'd be setting up a venture fund to invest in the companies he writes about -- which pit him against new AOL editorial chief Arianna Huffington and the journalistic standards she has to at least pretend to enforce. The result: Arrington abruptly departed from AOL, which would seem like a win for Huffington, save for the fact that AOL had already hedged its bets by , yep, investing in Arrington's fund.

Scientology vs. The New Yorker
In August, reps from the Church of Scientology distributed copies of their magazine, Freedom, outside the headquarters of New Yorker publisher Conde Nast. The cover: an illo of a putrefied-looking Eustace Tilly (The New Yorker mascot), along with the headline "THE NEW YORKER: WHAT A LOAD OF BALDERDASH." The New Yorker, you see, had investigated the church's practices in a devastating 24,000-word piece in February. So, you know, touche. Nothing like a print-vs.-print war on a six-month delay.

Sarah Palin vs. The Media
Remember Sarah Palin? Eyeglass model, failed reality TV star, mother of a tango-ing abstinence-advocating teenage single mom, and, oh yeah, drop-out Alaska governor? When she was more politically active, Palin regularly engaged in inflammatory dialogue about Democratic politicians, and her office even distributed a map of congressional districts overlaid with gunsight-style crosshairs. When Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in a January assassination attempt, the media was all, like, Yeah, maybe that target -practice map wasn't such a good idea. "Blood libel!" Palin responded to the lamestream, blamestream media.

Comments (1)