Late on Friday afternoon, news broke that Keith Olbermann was leaving MSNBC immediately (Friday’s show was his last with the cable network). Although there’s plenty of speculation as to what Olbermann will do next (a collaboration with Aaron Sorkin for HBO and running for senator in Connecticut are a couple of terrible guesses), both Olbermann and MSNBC are staying mum about the cause of his exit, which apparently resulted from years of tension.
Many people inside the television industry are astonished that a cable network’s highest-rated host, whose forceful personality and liberal advocacy had lifted MSNBC from irrelevance to competitiveness and profitability, would be ushered out the door with no fanfare, no promoted farewell show and only a perfunctory thanks for his efforts.
But underlying the decision, which one executive involved said was not a termination but a “negotiated separation,” were years of behind-the-scenes tension, conflicts and near terminations. [New York Times]
Hmmm… I get the feeling that I’m about to read some accounts of Olbermann being an egomaniacal prima donna A-hole.
Inside the offices of MSNBC, staff members grew more restive about Mr. Olbermann’s temperament. Some days Mr. Olbermann threatened not to come to work at all and a substitute anchor had to be notified to be on standby.
Mr. Olbermann was within one move of being fired in November after he was suspended for making donations to Democratic Congressional candidates. He threatened to make an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to protest the suspension; Mr. Zucker was prepared to fire him on the spot if he did, according to a senior NBC Universal executive who declined to be identified in discussing confidential deliberations.
And check out this highlight reel:
As a young sports reporter for UPI Television, he was fired… In the early 1980s, he had a short, stormy tenure at CNN… He labeled his departure from ESPN in 1997 a “nuclear war.”… His stint [at Fox Sports Network] ended in acrimony as well. Rupert Murdoch, head of the News Corporation, which ran the sports network, later said, “I fired him; he’s crazy.
Long story short: Keith Olbermann will be off the air for the next six to nine months as part of non-compete clause, and he won’t be saying anything about why he left MSNBC, even though the reason is he’s an assh*le. And so is anyone who watches cable news.