Olbermann’s Return to Twitter Reignites Rape Debate

After “Countdown” host’s self-imposed hiatus, critics resume fire over Assange sex crimes charges

Keith Olbermann returned from a self-imposed Twitter hiatus on Monday, and quickly reignited the fire fueled by his support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Michael Moore, who was a guest on "Countdown" last week after posting part of Assange's bail as he fights extradition to Sweden to face sex crime charges.

A group using the Twitter hashtag #mooreandme have spent close to a week railing against Olbermann and Moore, who they say have been dangerously dismissive of the rape charges against Assange.

On Monday, Olbermann linked to a lengthy statement on his Twitter feed:

I endorse, sympathize with, and empathize with, the rape consciousness goals of #mooreandme, and have already apologized accordingly. But I cannot defend and will not accept their tactics which mirror so many of the attitudes and threats they fight. I do not know of what Julian Assange is guilty, if anything, and neither does anybody else. But given the extraordinary efforts by Sweden to extradite him, to say he is benefiting from some form of rape apologism is not fact-based. It is also unfair to condemn as anti-feminist those who merely address the juxtaposition of this prosecution to the fact that Assange threatens the secret and nefarious activities of dozens of governments. And I will not engage those who suggest that those who do not prioritize one issue to the exclusion of all others should succumb to forced financial contributions, or should ‘kill themselves’ (examples of each will be retweeted shortly, along with my previous apology). The #mooreandme attacks do not help those who fight against rape, they hurt them. And indeed they feature something larger than anti-feminist. This is, to use a clunky phrase, anti-personism.

Olbermann's statement, if flawed, was a seemingly measured, even reasonable response to the controversy.

But he quickly enraged critics with another tweet:

'Kill yourself' RT @anarchofeminist @KeithOlbermann Because we're all white Christian men now, right? Seriously, kill yourself. #mooreandme

Olbermann's critics quickly pointed out that he was showcasing one tweet that was not representative of their Twitter movement.

But Olbermann was unmoved:

And to clarify my absence from Twitter, it was so I could calm down and write in the kind of reasonable fashion #mooreandme has abandoned.

Those who were hoping for the debate to continue on MSNBC are going to have to wait awhile. Olbermann is on vacation until January 3, 2011.

[Photo: Assange in November; Olbermann in 1971]