Why Keith Olbermann Left MSNBC

Monday, 24 Jan 2011 02:30 PM

By James Hirsen

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Keith Olbermann recently gave his audience a shock by announcing that his show was over.

After eight years, MSNBC's top-rated anchor was suddenly done.

Keith, Olbermann, MSNBC, quit
Keith Olbermann
The network issued a brief statement during the host’s sign-off saying that MSNBC and Olbermann had “ended their contract” and the cable network wished him “well in his future endeavors.”

Olbermann had two years left on his four-year $30 million contract.

Even staffers at the network were apparently caught off guard as promos for Olbermann’s show continued to air after his departure announcement.

On HBO's “Real Time with Bill Maher,” another MSNBC uber-liberal, Rachel Maddow, was asked about Olbermann’s sudden exit. Maddow said all she knew was that “he and the company made a mutual decision that 'Countdown' is done.”

Maher’s reply was “that's always bull---t.”

So why did Olbermann’s tenure with MSNBC end at this particular point in time?

Olbermann and his reps have no doubt been aware of the tensions that have been present among certain NBC personalities over Olbermann’s on-air style. Longtime NBC news anchors, including Tom Brokaw and Andrea Mitchell, have made grumblings about the MSNBC host.

According to the New York Times, executives at NBC were even thinking about changing the name of the news website, MSNBC.com, to distance it from the Peacock.

The darling-of-the-left host has quite a reputation for giving his employers a hard time. His career is actually riddled with sudden departures.

Olbermann was suspended by ESPN when he made an unauthorized appearance on then-host Craig Kilborn's “Daily Show” to promote a book. It didn’t help his relationship with the network when while on the show Olbermann referred to the ESPN set as a “godforsaken place.”

A former ESPN colleague told the New Yorker that when Olbermann left “he didn't burn bridges here — he napalmed them.”

Olbermann quit MSNBC once before in the 1990s over the coverage of the Monica Lewinsky affair, claiming the coverage gave him the “dry heaves.”

He even worked for two years at Fox Sports. Rupert Murdoch said Olbermann was fired because he was “crazy.”

In November 2010, Olbermann was given an indefinite suspension for donating money to the campaigns of two Democratic candidates.

The timing of Olbermann’s farewell and its coinciding with the government approval of the NBC Universal-Comcast merger is raising a lot of eyebrows.

Thanks to the merger, Olbermann lost his strongest executive ally, NBC head Jeff Zucker.

Sources told the New York Times that for the last several weeks Olbermann has been negotiating a buyout of his contract.

It’s possible that he may have sensed that his position was in jeopardy and tried to test the management via a renegotiation.

According to TMZ, talks started out with Olbermann's agent telling NBC that the MSNBC host should be paid more than his current $7 million-plus per year contract. NBC turned that request down.

His buyout agreement was completed on the same day Olbermann made the announcement.

The deal contains time limitations on when Olbermann can anchor another show or give interviews. However, he can return to sports broadcasting.

So where will Olbermann ultimately end up?

He will be all over the left-of-center Internet for sure.

But I can see him hopping on over to a network that has reportedly expressed interest in him before: CNN. Taking over the ratings-challenged primetime show, “Parker Spitzer,” might be just the Olbermann ticket.


James Hirsen, J.D., M.A. in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, commentator, media analyst and law professor. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court and has made several appearances there on various landmark decisions. Hirsen is the co-founder and Chief Legal Counsel for InternationalEsq.com, a legal think tank and educational institute for the study of law in the media. Visit: Newsmax TV Hollywood

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