On Tuesday night, Keith Olbermann speculated about what may have motivated a California man, reported to be an acolyte of conservative pundits such as Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, to allegedly send threatening letters to personalities including the MSNBC host himself.
39-year-old Chad Castagana was arrested on Saturday, accused of sending more than a dozen envelopes containing "fake anthrax" to anti-war celebrities, journalists, and politicians.
"Castagana has also been identified as a gushing online admirer of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham," Olbermann said. "And the Web site RAW STORY reports that many bloggers believe he is also a contributor, under a different name, to the conservative Web site Free Republic."
Posters at the liberal websites Democratic Underground and Daily Kos brought to light the similarities between Castagana's Internet footprint and Costanzo's writings at Free Republic, and RAW STORY unearthed a series of eyebrow-raising connections between the two men, as reported on Monday.
In one Free Republic post first cited here, Costanzo contends that he hails from the town of Woodlands Hills; the same city where Castagana was arrested.
"Sorry I was so late in replying, but this room were I am working online from is a scorcher in the afternoon," Constanzo wrote in July of this year. "Tempertures were 106 degrees in the shade this Saturday, here in Woodland Hills."
Olbermann's guest on Tuesday night, Radar Online senior writer John Cook, who has reported on Castagana's Internet writings and published an FBI affidavit, linked the alleged white powder hoaxer's actions to comments made by conservative pundits such as Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.
"And I mean, I don’t think we can always hold these people responsible for the actions of the least hinged of their followers, but I think it is clear that he was an acolyte of the Coulters and the Malkins, and I think that they clearly enjoy having acolytes, and they clearly sort of issue calls to action -- not necessarily to send threatening powder-filled envelopes to you in so many words, but they certainly exhort their followers to let themselves be known," said Cook.
Newsbusters, a Web site devoted to "exposing and combating liberal media bias," has slammed Olbermann for "going after conservatives" while showing "little interest" in "recent revelations of Democratic Congressman Murtha's involvement in a bribery scandal."
"While the NBC Nightly News had earlier run a story by correspondent Lisa Myers describing Murtha's involvement in the ABSCAM scandal, even showing a secretly recorded video of Murtha speaking with an undercover FBI informant about potential bribery, Olbermann only vaguely referred to a Washington Post article citing 'Democratic concerns over Murtha's alleged ethics issues,' as the Countdown host provided no details on the scandal," Brad Wilmouth wrote for Newsbusters. "But Olbermann spent almost seven minutes discussing conservative bloggers and domestic terrorism."
In an open letter to Olbermann posted at its Web site, Olbermann Watch vows "We will not be intimidated."
"While we are generally amused by your megalomania, you have lurched into dangerous territory in your attempt to link Castagana to 'right-wing blogs' thus tarring all bloggers that do not agree with your world view as advocating, condoning or turning a blind-eye to terroristic 'pranks' like those alleged of Castagana," the site's editor Robert Cox writes.
"We're sorry some nut job sent you a threatening letter but that has nothing to do with us and we fully intend to keep on documenting your fact-challenged reporting and hypocritical claims of being non-partisan as you shill for the far-left wing of the Democratic party," Cox promises.
Video from Olbermann's broadcast, followed by partial transcript:
OLBERMANN: Federal authorities still expect the preliminary hearing for Chad Conrad Castagana to continue day after tomorrow. He was arrested over the weekend, accused of mailing at least 13 threatening letters, maybe 17, filled with white powder to the likes of Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker presumptive Nancy Pelosi, Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, David Letterman, Jon Stewart and me.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, more details tonight, some from an FBI affidavit obtained by “Radar Online” magazine about the suspect. According to that affidavit, on the same day Castagana was picking up the envelopes and stamps at the post office for some of his terroristic threats, he purchased a
$25 money order and had it made out to Friends of Katherine Harris. The money order, in fact, may have provided some of the trail that agents needed to trace the threatening letters back to Castagana. The affidavit also describes him as a 39-year-old white man who lives with his parents in Woodland Hills in Southern California. It includes details of some of the notes Castagana sent with the white powder. One message, intended for Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, but sent to the wrong Jon Stewart read, quote, “Do you know Alan Berg? You should. Death to demagogues.”
That reference is unmistakable, as the FBI affidavit notes. Alan Berg was the talk radio host murdered by white supremacists in 1984.
There are also references to poison and demagogues. Quote, “all of you are poisoning the well.” One to David Letterman that read, quote, “Your kind are the real poison.” The messages intended to Viacom Chair Redstone and Congresswoman Pelosi cannot be repeated on this broadcast.
Castagana has also been identified as a gushing online admirer of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham. And the Web site RawStory reports that many bloggers believe he is also a contributor, under a different name, to the conservative Web site FreeRepublic. In fact, the name used is supposed to be Marc Costanzo.
Joining me now, John Cook, senior writer for “Radar Online” who has been covering all this since the news of the arrest broke on Sunday. Thanks for your time tonight, John.
JOHN COOK, “RADAR ONLINE”: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The details of the letters I think we pretty much got.
Explain, if you can, what the link is to the right-wing blogs and what the relevance of that link is.
COOK: Well, we should point out the evidence is not conclusive, but—it’s circumstantial, but it’s good evidence. It appears that Mr. Castagana was a poster to the FreeRepublic, which, as you know, is an online library of some of the most thoughtful right-wing thinkers out there. And his—the Marc Costanzo alias that he used, his profile said, “Ann Coulter is a goddess and I idolize Malkin and Ingraham.” And there are a lot of posts that suggest that he’s a big fan of Malkin and Coulter.
OLBERMANN: For the record, as I understand it, the connection is that the fellow identifying himself as Costanzo posted something about science fiction, which he said was a rewrite of something he’d previously posted on a sci-fi site, which was written by and identified by Castagana. But the Ann Coulter-Laura Ingraham-Michelle Malkin connection is—how is that best described? Is that hero worship? Or crushes of some kind, or do we know what that is?
COOK: Well, I mean, if he is idolizing them, that sounds like hero worship to me. I mean, I think, you know, these, Ann Coulter and Malkin, you know, they sort of present a kind of rhetorical world view where they have their troops out there, and I think he thought of himself as one of their troops and wanted to live up to their standards.
And I mean, I don’t think we can always hold these people responsible for the actions of the least hinged of their followers, but I think it is clear that he was an acolyte of the Coulters and the Malkins, and I think that they clearly enjoy having acolytes, and they clearly sort of issue calls to action -- not necessarily to send threatening powder-filled envelopes to you in so many words, but they certainly exhort their followers to let themselves be known.
OLBERMANN: But to that point, I mean, the part—it was one thing—an acolyte is one thing; an emulation is something else. There were students at the University of California at Santa Cruz who protested military recruiters on their campus. Malkin posted their addresses and their personal information on her blog, and then when people harassed the students at their homes, Malkin did the King Henry thing about Thomas Becket, “who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” I never told anybody to do anything. And then this is the problem, right? You can come out, you can directly encourage people to act violently. Ann Coulter has done that. Or you can do it in this sort of thinly disguised way, the way Malkin has.
COOK: Right. But I think what Malkin wants to do is not to tell people to act violently so much as—I do think she wants to sort of introduce a kind of thuggish sort of intimidating tone into the political debate, this kind of let’s not let them boss us around anymore. I think that’s sort of—she has got a very combative kind of truculent rhetorical pose.
And, you know, I mean, Ann Coulter has said some, you know, absolutely ludicrous things about—she once said that, you know, “we need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, making them realize that they can be killed, too.”
When she says that, I don’t think she honestly believes—I don’t think she actually wants people who hear those words to go and physically intimidate liberals. I think she says it because she knows that if she says outrageous things, her speaking—speaker’s bureau’s fees go up or the next book contract goes up. She is a professional agitator.
OLBERMANN: Until it, you know, bursts into gunfire. Nobody wants to see that in any direction. It’s madness.
But ultimately, about this thing and the things like it, is it not self- defeating for people who think they’re acting even in their own warped view of patriotism? I mean, you might scare the victims, although there is no evidence of that in any of these cases. You can annoy, maybe inconvenience their co- workers and the people who handle their mail, but the only thing that’s for certain in this is, if you do something like this—and I was talking to these great FBI counter-terror guys yesterday about all this—you waste hundreds of hours of their time that they could be spending on other counter-terrorism cases.