Olbermann Emails Detail Equipment Breakdowns, Egotism at Gore-owned Current TV

Sunday, 01 Apr 2012 09:08 PM

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Keith Olbermann, who was fired last week from the liberal Current TV network, left a trail of angry emails ranging from complaints about the lack of talent and equipment at the network founded by Al Gore to gripes about his personal limo service.

Equipment was regularly breaking down on sets, according to the emails obtained by press critic Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast. And his limo drivers wouldn’t quit talking to the star – they were annoying, Olbermann complained. Olbermann went through eight different limousine services over the year he worked for Current, the Beast and other outlets reported.

But the emails from the Current brass also suggested that Olbermann had a lousy work ethic, took too many vacation days, and browbeat the company’s staff. He didn’t want to lend support to other anchors, and actually took a vacation day on Super Tuesday.

"Some of the disputes are fundamental—such as missing days of work—and some sound petty, but they add up to a portrait of a dysfunctional alliance that was doomed from the start," Kurtz writes. "Where Current management viewed Olbermann as a chronic complainer who had clashed with the bosses before leaving his previous jobs at MSNBC and ESPN, the liberal commentator came to believe that he had joined a rinky-dink operation, even if the channel was committed to paying him $50 million over five years."

Olbermann never came close to the more than 1 million viewers he had averaged at MSNBC, but his Current show was drawing more than 100,000 in the prized 25-to-54 age group last summer—and that gradually dwindled to 30,000. The company also built a $250,000 studio to his precise specifications.

Just weeks after his hiring, Olbermann said the network founded by Al Gore and attorney Joel Hyatt wasn’t living up to its promises to support a professional cable news show.

The emails detailed a litany of problems at the fledgling network:
  • On Aug. 2, 2011, Olbermann’s manager, Michael Price, sent Gore’s partner Joel Hyatt a list of about 40 “deficiencies” that needed to be corrected. Six days later, Price told Hyatt that the problems required “immediate attention” and that “we are not aware of any demonstrable effort to address the issues.”
  • On Sept. 21, a Current TV exec wrote to Olbermann and Price, saying he would move “quickly” to resolve the problems at the Manhattan studio that were making Countdown a “less than high-class production.”
  • On Feb. 10, the lighting failed while Olbermann was on the air, and not for the first time. Three weeks ago, Olbermann’s team sounded out of patience. “David, once again Current’s technical breakdowns have had a negative impact on Countdown,” Price wrote on March 8. “We have pleaded with you to focus on the studio and the constant technical failures that diminish the program and turn away the viewership.”
  • And Olbermann apparently was getting cut off quite a bit: one email said that “while Keith was in mid-sentence, the show cut away from him to a promo for the War Room,” the new show hosted by former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm. The situation was “wholly unacceptable ... This diminishes the ratings of Current’s most successful show and proves to viewers that Current need not be taken seriously.”

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