Rupert Murdoch's handmaidens over at the New York Post this morning jumped into a feud between their Fox News shouting head Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC ranter Keith Olbermann. The tabloid's gossip page ran an item dredging up various minor controversies involving Olbermann dating back to his ESPN days, up through an alleged spat between Olbermann and fellow MSNBC personality David Gregory last Tuesday over camera time. It then insinuated Olbermann might soon explode and leave his network. The warmed-over gossip was clearly meant as cover fire on behalf of O'Reilly, a fellow News Corp. soldier, whose feud with Olbermann is detailed in the Washington Post today. In a nutshell:

Olbermann has been criticizing O'Reilly on his show for four years, including naming him the "worst person in the world" and saying his kids have a home life as difficult as that faced by the forthcoming child of a pregnant, transgendered man.

Instead of taking what he dishes out nightly, O'Reilly allowed News Corp. chairman Murdoch and Fox News chief Roger Ailes to complain to NBC executives on his behalf, asking that Olbermann be reined in. NBC refused, and O'Reilly launched a campaign on his show against NBC corporate parent General Electric and its CEO Jeffrey Immelt, saying that GE's business with Iran — "mostly... sales of oil, gas and energy and health-care equipment," according to the Washington Post — endangered American troops in Iraq.

News Corp. then offered to end the attacks in exchange for Olbermann backing off O'Reilly, according to NBC.

The Washington Post said Ailes threatened to deploy the New York Post against Olbermann, but an Ailes spokesman denied this, saying, "Roger doesn't control the editorial policy of the New York Post."

Within a few hours of that denial going online, the New York Post published its initial attack on Olbermann on its website.

That Murdoch properties do one another's dirty work and then lie about their actions is hardly surprising; but one would hope thinned-skinned rageaholic O'Reilly would learn to fight his own battles at some point instead of complaining to his bosses and permitting a sucker punch from Page Six, as though he doesn't have enough media firepower at his disposal on the O'Reilly Factor.

[Page Six, Washington Post]