Sports and political commentator Keith Olbermann issued an apology Wednesday after publicly vilifying on Twitter a Mississippi hunter who had killed a rare white turkey.
The initial tweet, which called Hunter Waltman a “pea-brained scum” and said everyone should “make his life a living hell,” also called for the firing of the reporter who had written about the kill in glowing terms for the Clarion Ledger of Mississippi.
“It be rare and beautiful so me should kill it,” Olbermann snidely wrote in the since-deleted tweet. “This pea-brained scumbag identifies himself as Hunter Waltman and we should do our best to make sure the rest of his life is a living hell. And the nitwit clown who wrote this fawning piece should be fired.”
Waltman, 22, considered the tirade a threat.
“To tell you the truth, it seemed like a threat to me,” he told the Clarion Ledger, noting he’d never heard of Olbermann before his tweet. “Make (my) life ‘a living hell?’ That seems like a threat to me. I’d be glad to see him fired. He went overboard.”
In fact, others have received death threats in the past for killing white animals.
In his apology Olbermann continued to conflate trophy hunting with sustenance hunting. Waltman bagged the bird during legal hunting season.
“I am an opponent of trophy hunting and remain so, but nobody should feel threatened,” the ESPN broadcaster tweeted, in a story reported first by the Clarion Ledger. “This was anything but my intent, so I unreservedly apologize to Mr. Waltman for this tweet.”
Critics called Olbermann a hypocrite for making commercials for the Boston Market restaurant chain, which specializes in chicken and turkey, while criticizing someone for killing a bird. In doing so, though, the tweets didn’t differentiate between domestic turkeys, which are often bred to have mostly white feathers, and wild turkeys, where a naturally occurring albino is rare.
“You’re okay w/being paid by a company that commercially kills 1000’s of white turkeys a day, but have a problem w/one legal hunter opting not to outsource the task,” tweeted Kyle Richards. “If you are a vegetarian and have a moral issue w/eating meat, that’s different. If not; you’re just a hypocrite.”
Many more called out Olbermann for the threatening nature of his words, as did Clarion Ledger executive editor Sam Hall.
“Keith Olbermann’s tweet was recklessly irresponsible,” Hall said in a statement quoted in the newspaper. “Someone with his following needs to understand the possible impact of his words. Telling over 1 million people to make someone’s life a living hell could have seriously dangerous consequences. In our newsroom, that would be a fireable offense, not writing a story about a hunter bagging a turkey.”
He also took issue with Olbermann’s call to fire the reporter who’d written about the hunting feat.
It’s still unclear why Waltman chose to target a rare animal.
Among many Native American cultures, white animals are revered, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a medicine man on the Cheyenne River Reservation in what is today South Dakota, told the Daily News. He is the Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, a respected designation in his culture.
White animals in general fall under a prophecy in his culture, he told The News. Though not aware of the controversy surrounding Waltman’s situation, he said people who kill white animals just because they’re white are seen as “spiritually disconnected.”
The appearance of a white animal of any kind is “a blessing, but it’s a warning for all creation,” he said, adding that it could portend drastic environmental changes.
He did not, however, echo Olbermann’s sentiment that Waltman’s life should be made a living hell. He said indigenous people would be more inclined to pray for the hunter.
“They just think about that moment of time to kill this white animal because it’s rare,” he said. “They don’t think about the spiritual connection it has with the environment.”
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