Keith Olbermann, the host of MSNBC’s “Countdown” since 2003, resigned from the program suddenly last night. Olbermann announced on the air that he would be leaving the show immediately, his time slot to be filled by Lawrence O’Donnell. What happened?
Olbermann, who had signed a four-year contract with the network in 2008, didn’t disclose the details behind his departure.
It’s been kind of a rocky road with Olbermann and MSNBC management, especially since November, when he was suspended for two days for donating money to Democratic congressional candidates. According to Bill Carter at the New York Times‘ Media Decoder blog, NBC had been close to firing Olbermann even before that. In his goodbye speech, Olbermann obliquely referred to the problems:
“There were many occasions, particularly in the past two-and-a-half years, when all that surrounded the show — but never the show itself — was just too much for me.”
And that’s all he really had to say on the matter, besides a few minutes of patented Olbermann blather.
Seems like the prevailing conjecture is that Olbermann was forced out by Comcast, which has recently taken over NBC Universal. Of course, Comcast released a statement to the contrary, but it’s kind of evasive, no?
Comcast has not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and has no operational control at any of its properties including MSNBC. We pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal’s news operations. We have not and we will not.
Countdown will be replaced by Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word.” This is the dude that told Glenn Greenwald, “Liberals amuse me. I am a socialist.” No word yet on Olbermann’s next move, if there is to be one.
UPDATE: More on the context behind Olbermann’s resignation, from Bill Carter: apparently the decision was “weeks in the making.” Also:
Friday’s separation agreement between MSNBC and Mr. Olbermann includes restrictions on when he can next lead a television show and when he can give interviews about the decision to end his association with the news channel.
Olbermann is also prohibited from speaking to reporters about the deal, apparently.