NEW YORK, N.Y. – MSNBC TV host Keith Olbermann announced Friday that he is leaving the network and has taped his last “Countdown” show.
MSNBC issued a statement that it had ended its contract with the controversial host, with no further explanation. Olbermann hosted the network’s most popular show, but his combative liberal opinions often made him a target of critics.
Olbermann did not explain why he was leaving.
“MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavours,” the network said.
A spokesman said Phil Griffin, MSNBC’s president, would not comment on Olbermann’s exit. Spokesman Jeremy Gaines would say only that the acquistion of NBC Universal by Comcast, which received regulatory approval this week, had nothing to do with the decision.
Olbermann was suspended without pay from the network for two days in November for donating to three Democratic candidates, which violated NBC News’ policy on political donations. Olbermann complained that he was being punished for mistakenly violating an inconsistently applied rule that he had known nothing about.
The host apologized to fans — but not to the network.
Olbermann, before leaving the show with a final signature toss of his script toward the camera, thanked his audience for sticking with him and read a James Thurber poem.
“This may be the only television program where the host was much more in awe of the audience than vice versa,” he said.
He thanked a series of people, including the late Tim Russert, but pointedly not Griffin or NBC News President Steve Capus.
Olbermann’s prime-time show is the network’s top-rated. His evolution from a humorous look at the day’s headlines into a pointedly liberal show in the last half of George W. Bush’s administration led MSNBC to largely shift the tone of the network in his direction, with the hirings or Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell in primetime.
But Olbermann was known for a mercurial personality behind the scenes and he was almost fired last year for the political donations. He quit a prime-time show on MSNBC in the late 1990s, complaining that management was making him report too much on President Bill Clinton’s impeachment scandal.
He was particularly critical of Fox News Channel and his direct competitor, Bill O’Reilly, frequently naming him his “Worst Person in the World” in a segment popular with his fans. Bosses at NBC had discussed trying to keep the tone of the vitriol down.
MSNBC announced that O’Donnell, who had frequently filled in for Olbermann before starting his own 10 p.m. show, will take over Olbermann’s time slot starting Monday. “The Ed Show,” with Ed Schultz, would move to 10 p.m. Cenk Uygur of the Web show “The Young Turks,” will fill Schultz’s vacated 6 p.m. time slot.
Olbermann had signed a new four-year contract with MSNBC two years ago. It’s unclear what his plans are now.
He could give a boost to struggling CNN’s prime-time lineup, but Olbermann would mean CNN would make an abrupt shift in its nonpartisan policy. It was not immediately known how quickly Olbermann could switch to another job if he wanted to.
*** *** *** *** ***
I have read through all the blogs. The Huffington Post and The Daily Kos. There are theories and speculations about what happened and why, and what may happen next. Suffice to say Keith is finished at MSNBC, it is possible that Keith made a lump of money if they bought him out, but certain specifics may hamper being told what those finer points are.
Keith was a nightly event in this house. MSNBC as a whole network ran every night here, he will be missed. I hope he got away with enough money to keep him happy for a long time.
The theory that Comcast fired Olbermann to calm the heads at Fox is something I am sure of. We hope that Lawrence and Rachel and Ed keep their jobs, if they fall, then you know something is up with the stifling of political opinion …
Rachel was on Bill Maher tonight and she did not have much to say about the end of Countdown.
We shall see what we get over the weekend. Stay tuned…
Well that was fast! MSNBC president Phil Griffin announced Sunday night that “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann will return to the air on Tuesday. The announcement comes just two days after he was suspended “indefinitely” for contributing to three 2010 candidates without prior consent from the network.
“After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night’s program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy,” Griffin said in a statement. “We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night.”
Olbermann’s suspension jolted the media world Friday, leading to a flurry of coverage online, on cable news and even on the front page of the New York Times.
There was speculation that Olbermann — who’s left several networks before — might not return at all. And sources told Politico that Olbermann was suspended after refusing to give an on-air mea culpa.
The suspension brought into the focus the ongoing tensions between the nonpartisan NBC News and the partisan hosts on MSNBC.
Even though Olbermann is paid for opinion, the undisclosed donations presented a clear conflict of interest for someone who recently anchored an election night. MSNBC already received some criticism last week for having its liberal hosts and commentators anchor election night. So the news that one of them also donated to Democratic candidates only gave more ammo to conservative critics of the cable network.
Among media watchers, the episode also raised questions about the current Olbermann-Griffin relationship. Olbermann has a reputation for being difficult to manage and once told the New Yorker that “Phil thinks he’s my boss.”
Griffin put out only two short statements on Friday and Sunday. But MSNBC host Rachel Maddow — who subbed for Olbermann and got her 9 p.m. show with his support – devoted a segment Friday to Olbermann’s suspension.
Maddow talked of a double standard where Fox News allows Republican hosts like Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee to take a role in politics that goes beyond journalism and into advocacy. For Maddow, the incident showed how MSNBC is different in suspending Olbermann for giving to candidates while Fox didn’t take a similarly hard line when it came to Hannity’s contribution to Michelle Bachmann.
“Let this incident lay to rest forever, the facile, never-true-in-any-way, lazy conflation of Fox News, and what the rest of us do for a living,” Maddow said. “Everybody likes to say, ‘Oh, that’s cable news. It’s all the same. Fox and MSNBC, mirror images of each other.’ Let this lay that to rest forever.”
Maddow continued: “Hosts on Fox raise money on the air for Republican candidates. They use their Fox News profiles to headline fundraisers. Heck, there are multiple people being paid by Fox News now to essentially run as Republican candidates. There is no rule against that at Fox. They run as a political operation. We’re not.”
Olbermann, however, stayed silent after Friday’s suspension. And he didn’t respond to the rumors flying around all weekend.
But on Sunday afternoon, Olbermann sent a message to fans on Twitter. “Greetings From Exile! A quick, overwhelmed, stunned THANK YOU for support that feels like a global hug & obviously left me tweetless XO”
Perhaps he’ll have more to say Tuesday.
We want Keith back at work on Monday, without fail. No exceptions and no excuses. We will stand for nothing less. Join us …
From: Huffington Post blog
MSNBC has suspended star anchor Keith Olbermann following the news that he had donated to three Democratic candidates this election cycle.
“I became aware of Keith’s political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement.
Politico reported Friday that Olbermann had donated $2,400 each to Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, and to Kentucky Senate contender Jack Conway. While NBC News policy does not prohibit employees from donating to political candidates, it requires them to obtain prior approval from NBC News executives before doing so.
In a statement earlier Friday, Olbermann defended his donation, saying, “I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level.”
Griffin’s statement underscores that it was Olbermann’s failure to obtain approval, and not the actual political donations, that prompted the suspension.
The move is doubly significant in that it represents a major development in the relationship between Griffin and Olbermann, who once told the New Yorker, “Phil thinks he’s my boss.”
“Keith doesn’t run the show,” Griffin told New York Magazine recently. “I do a lot of things he doesn’t like. I do a lot of things he does.”
In recent months, Griffin has taken several bold steps to declare his authority over the network and its sometimes unruly talent: he sent a stern memo warning hosts to not publicly fight with each other, he suspended David Shuster indefinitely for filming a CNN pilot, suspended Donny Deutsch, banned Markos Moulitsas from the network, and reprimanded Ed Schultz for threatening to “torch” the network.
The New York Times’ Brian Stelter and Bill Carter report that, according to one NBC executive, Friday’s suspension is “not a step toward firing” Olbermann, though a source also told the New York Observer that there was “no time frame” for Olbermann’s potential return. The Nation’s Chris Hayes will host “Countdown” Friday night, the network said (according to a tweet from Yahoo’s Michael Calderone). (UPDATE: Stelter later tweeted that Hayes will not host Friday’s show after all. MSNBC has not announced who would be replacing him.)
From: Huffington Post Blog
We Want Keith Back at work on Monday Night and nothing less will do.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow closed her program Friday night with a segment about the suspension of her “colleague and friend Keith Olbermann,” arguing that the suspension underscores the difference between MSNBC and Fox News.
Maddow ran down a list of Fox News hosts’ and contributors’ political donations and fundraising activities, ranging from Sean Hannity’s political donations to Glenn Beck’s on-air fundraising to Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin’s political careers.
Maddow argued that MSNBC’s suspension of Olbermann in light of his political donations (without prior network approval) showed that it is a real news organization, as opposed to Fox News, which allows its hosts to engage in political activity without consequence.
“Let this incident lay to rest forever the facile, never-true-anyway, bull-pucky, lazy conflation of Fox News and what the rest of us do for a living,” she said. “I know everybody likes to say, ‘Oh, that’s cable news, it’s all the same. Fox and MSNBC, mirror images of each other.’ Let this lay that to rest forever. Hosts on Fox News raise money for Republican candidates. They endorse them explicitly, they use their Fox News profile to headline fundraisers. Heck, there are multiple people being paid by Fox News now to essentially run for office as Republican candidates….They can do that because there’s no rule against that as Fox. They run as a political operation; we’re not.”
Maddow continued by saying, though she and Olbermann are avowed liberals and others at MSNBC make their political beliefs known, MSNBC is “not a political operation,” while Fox News is.
“We are a news operation and the rules around here are part of how you know that,” she said.
Maddow also praised Olbermann, saying he took on the Bush administration “before it was politically safe to do it,” and that he was “the one who brought to light Fox News’ water-carrying-role for the Bush administration.”
“Now, weirdly, it is Keith who is illustrating the difference between what he does on TV, we we do here at MSNBC, and what goes on across the street” at Fox News.
Maddow did acknowledge that Olbermann broke an NBC News rule, adding, “I understand this rule, I understand what it means to break this rule. I believe everybody should face the same treatment under this rule.”
But she called on her MSNBC bosses to end the suspension, saying that the point had been made.
“I also personally believe that the point has been made and we should have Keith back hosting ‘Countdown,’” she said.
Maddow also referenced “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough’s political donation to a Republican friend in 2006, though she did not reference Scarborough by name.
“You can [donate] if you ask in advance and management tells you OK. That’s what I understand happened with our morning show host’s political donations in 2006, under previous management,” she said.