Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from MSNBC on Thursday night was a shocker to his fans and the entire cable TV news world.
It came on the heels of his controversial dumping in November, when he was suspended for 2 days after allegedly breaking the network’s rules against political donations.
“I became aware of Keith’s political contributions (in early November),” said MSNBC President, Phil Griffin. “I was mindful of NBC News policy and standards, so I have suspended him indefinitely without pay.”
Griffin offered no further explanation at the time.
Many viewed the action as hypocritical, since other personalities at MSNBC had made political contributions in the past. Specifically, Pat Buchanan, who was an official MSNBC contributor and he made several political contributions between 2005 and 2008.
In addition, it was reported that Joe Scarborough made a Republican donation to a house candidate in 2006.
Olbermann’s fans felt he should not have been singled out. He contributed the maximum of $2,400 to three candidates for a total of $7.200. He did not keep it a secret and his contributions were fully disclosed.
Ironically, one of the candidates he donated to was Rep. Gabby Griffins, who was shot in Tucson two weeks ago.
Keith Olbermann spent 8 years on MSNBC, after a temporary fill-in stint that was supposed to last three days, but ended with a 4 year contract.
The popular commentator was widely believed to be an influential counter-point to many of the Fox News entertainers.
Rumors indicated that tensions remained high after the November suspension; because Olbermann felt he should have been given an opportunity to explain himself, instead of being unceremoniously thrown under the bus.
During Olbermann’s first night back on the air in November, Keith said he was unaware of network’s policy against donations and had offered to explain his actions on air or off air. Instead, he was unfairly suspended without pay. Keith was not shy about expressing his opinion on the rift. It was a statement that Phil Griffin might not have appreciated.
Whatever caused MSNBC and Olbermann to part ways, Keith was able to give his own final statement and expressed his thanks to the fans and the crew.
“I’m grateful to have a little more time to sign off here,” explained Keith, after telling a story from 13 years ago, when he left ESPN and a producer told him in his earpiece to cut his goodbye 15 seconds short for the results of a tennis match.
David Shuster, a former MSNBC anchor, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he was “shocked” by the sudden news of Olbermann’s departure.
“You look at all of MSNBC’s prime time — Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell — I mean, they exist because of Keith. He was the fundamental building block,” Shuster said. “I just hope for Keith’s sake that he’s leaving on his terms, which it sounds like it was, in the sense that he was given time to say goodbye.”
The only public explanation was that Olbermann and MSNBC had ended their contract.
Watch Keith’s departing statement.
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