NEW YORK — Keith Olbermann is leaving MSNBC and has announced that Friday's "Countdown" show will be his last.
In a very abrupt exit typical of his often unpredictable behavior, Olbermann did not explain why he was leaving.
In a statement, MSNBC said : “MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
MSNBC announced that “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell would replace “Countdown” at 8 p.m., with “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz taking Mr. O’Donnell’s slot at 10 p.m., The New York Times reported.
Olbermann did not discuss any future plans, but NBC executives said one term of his settlement will keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time, the Times reported.
Olbermann, who had signed a four-year contract extension in 2008 for an estimated $30 million, had hosted “Countdown” at 8 p.m. since 2003 and it became the foundation of the channel’s surge to status as the second-ranked news channel on cable television, after Fox News, surpassing the one-time leader CNN.
Olbermann’s often controversial support of liberal positions and Democratic candidates had boosted MSNBC, but it was an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to rival Fox News as a voice of the political left.
Olbermann challenged Fox News publicly on numerous occasions, especially the top-rated cable host Bill O’Reilly, whom he regularly tweaked and frequently placed in the top circle of infamy on a segment Olbermann called “The Worst Person in the World,” the Times pointed out.
Yet he never approached O’Reilly's popularity.
The Times also reported that NBC executives had been close to firing Olbermann on previous occasions, most recently in November after he revealed that he had made donations to several Democratic candidates during the 2010 congressional elections.
In an interesting coincidence, one of them was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has been the subject of many of his recent shows after being shot in an assassination attempt in Tucson on Jan. 8.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.