Keith Olbermann was only suspended because he refused to apologize on-camera for making political donations without first seeking approval, according to Politico, specifically Mike Allen’s anonymous network sources. MSNBC was prepared to let Olbermann keep hosting Countdown if he addressed the situation, Allen reports. He also hints that Olbermann’s job may be in danger.
Olbermann may not hold as many cards as he thinks. He makes $7 million a year and MSNBC’s prime time is not as dependent on him as it was before the addition of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, who make considerably less.
Mediaite’s Glynnis MacNicol supports the point about Olbermann’s bad hand, pointing toward the numbers:
MSNBC’s ratings certainly back up the last line about Olbermann not holding as many cards as he thinks, something Steve Krakauer pointed out on Friday: “Rachel Maddow is getting better ratings than Olbermann in the key A25-54 demographic, and Lawrence O’Donnell isn’t far behind. Olbermann is no longer the center of the strategy either – as the network has unveiled a vibrant, massive new campaign “Lean Forward” which focuses on half a dozen members of the MSNBC talent pool.”
And now for some semi-informed conjecture: Knowing what we know about Olbermann’s reputation around the office and his ego in general — Gabriel Sherman’s “Chasing Fox” from New York magazine is a good starting point — Allen’s version of the events is entirely believable. Olbermann does not seem like a man who enjoys taking orders or admitting he’s wrong. (Who is and who does? But Olbermann especially.) And as crucial as his brand is to MSNBC’s image, he is not, as the numbers show, indispensable. But it’s also easy to imagine him believing he is.
For those who can’t see why media pundits won’t shut up about the Olbermann suspension, let’s just all agree that the longer Olbermann remains silent — and the uglier the situation gets via anonymous claims from “network sources” — the more likely it is that we’ll have a genuinely entertaining moment when good ol’ Keith finally chimes in. Then it won’t just be navel-gazing, it will be good TV.