When TV Personalities Attack: TV’s Best Feuds in 2011

Feudin' foursome (clockwise from top left): Howard Stern, Lawrence O'Donnell, Donald Trump, Jon Stewart (Photos: Getty Images)

Who doesn’t love a good feud? They’ve been a part of broadcasting since the Golden Age of Radio (the most famous being a long-running feud between old-time entertainers Jack Benny and Fred Allen), but the tradition was in full swing in 2011.

These days, the feudin’ and fightin’ breaks out most notably on cable, but also wherever you find headstrong TV personalities. On cable, the feuds stem from criticism leveled at other talk-show hosts, with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell igniting (or trying to ignite) a goodly number of the ones we covered in 2011. Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” is another one who enjoyed roiling the waters in the past year. And Donald Trump was another whose name popped up several times in this context.

Of course, technically, a feud is only really a feud if it’s more than one-sided. In that respect, Stewart was a lot more successful than O’Donnell in drawing responses from those they attacked – chiefly, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News Channel, who responded to Stewart and ignored O’Donnell.

Whatever the case, we loved chronicling the give-and-take this year. Here are some of the best quotes we ran from TV’s Feuds of the Year in 2011:

Howard Stern vs. Jay Leno:

For some reason, Stern went on a campaign of Leno-bashing last winter. Here’s what Stern said on “Piers Morgan Tonight”: “The world knows exactly what [Jay’s] up to. He steals a tremendous amount of material. . . . He’s not fit to scrub David Letterman’s feet! I don’t know how he’s beaten David Letterman in the ratings. It’s beyond my comprehension. America must be filled with morons.”

Then, a few weeks later on “Late Show with David Letterman,” Howard said to Dave: “You know as well as everybody in this room, Jay is horrible, right? Jay’s got no talent.” There was no reported response from Leno.

Jon Stewart vs. Fox News Channel:

Last June, Stewart became incensed with FNC after he appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with interviewer Chris Wallace. The two argued about media bias and also traded accusations of racism when Wallace accused Stewart of trafficking in “Amos ‘n’ Andy”-style stereotypes when “The Daily Show” lampooned then-presidential candidate Herman Cain. On “The Daily Show” the next day, Stewart accused Fox of selectively editing his interview: “I suggest you look at the unedited version [of the FNC interview] on-line where my emotional states don’t seem to change so arbitrarily. The arguments are a little clearer and a little less like a scene from ‘A Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’.”

Lawrence O’Donnell vs. Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump and Glenn Beck:

Yes, it was a banner year for Lawrence O’Donnell, whose show “The Last Word” was shifted to 8 p.m./7c opposite “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel and basically got creamed in the ratings by O’Reilly. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, O’Donnell went on a tear this past year noting the misdeeds and misstatements (in his opinion) of some of our most popular right-leaning TV and radio personalities.

On Glenn Beck (February): “Today, he has bent to the pressure of my criticism and apologized,” said O’Donnell of Beck, after Beck apologized on his radio show for a statement he made that drew parallels between some radical rabbis and fanatic Islamists. O’Donnell did criticize Beck for the statement, but it’s doubtful Beck apologized just because O’Donnell demanded it on “The Last Word.”

On Bill O’Reilly (September): “O’Reilly has to lie about everything in that statement in order to make it credible to his audience, whose gullibility he has precisely calculated in the lies that he’s loaded into that sentence.” The “statement” in question was an O’Reilly “Talking Points Memo” in which O’Reilly hypothesized that income taxes might get so onerous that it might be more profitable for him to quit his job at Fox – an idea only O’Donnell seemed to take seriously at the time.

On Donald Trump (October): “Donald Trump has never suffered sharper or more accurate criticism than what has been said about him on this program this year,” O’Donnell gloated, though the claim is debatable.

On Rush Limbaugh (November): “In a country with a long painful and ugly history, you would think that Rush Limbaugh could comprehend why some of the things he has said over the years might offend the racial sensibilities of some reasonable people,” O’Donnell said, putting a unique spin on some statements Limbaugh made on his radio show about racial politics.

The irrepressible Donald Trump:

Our favorite Trump feud of the year was the one he picked last April with – of all people – Jerry Seinfeld, who cancelled an appearance at a Trump family fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital because of Trump’s outspokenness about President Obama’s birth origins. Said Trump in a statement addressed to Jerry: “I just learned you canceled a show for my son’s charity because of the fact that I am being very aggressive with respect to President Obama, who is doing an absolutely terrible job as our leader. . . . What I do feel badly about is that I agreed to do, and did, your failed show, ‘The Marriage Ref,’ even though I thought it was absolutely terrible. Despite its poor ratings, I didn’t cancel on you like you canceled on my son and St. Jude. I only wish I did.”

And now, our heartfelt thanks to all of 2011’s feuders – you made our year memorable and we look forward to hearing from all you in 2012.

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