MSNBC host Keith Olbermann abruptly announced at the end of Friday’s broadcast that he is leaving the network and has aired his last “Countdown” show. Olbermann did not explain why he was leaving.
MSNBC issued a statement after the show that it ended its contract with the controversial television host, without further explanation.”MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” the network said. A network spokesman said Phil Griffin, MSNBC’s president, would not comment further.
Olbermann was suspended without pay from the network for two days in November for donating to three Democratic candidates, violating parent company NBC Universal’s news policy on political donations. Olbermann’s fans rallied to support him, with an online petition to reinstate the anchor receiving over 300,000 signatures in within 48 hours of the suspension. Olbermann was quickly reinstated. Olbermann stated at the time he was being suspended for violating a rule put in place by parent company NBC Universal, not MSNBC, and was unaware of the policy. Subsequently, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough was also suspended and ultimately reinstated for political campaign contributions.
Before leaving his final show, Olbermann bid adieu to his audience with his signature toss of his script toward the camera and thanked them for their support. “This may be the only television program where the host was much more in awe of the audience than vice versa,” he said. Olbermann also thanked the late Tim Russert.
The unusual timing of the announcement caused speculation that that the parting of the ways may have resulted from issues related to Olbermann’s previous suspension or events surrounding this week’s approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal and departure of its CEO, Jeff Zucker. NBC Universal spokesman Jeremy Gaines said the Comcast merger had nothing to do with the decision.
During his eight years with MSNBC, Olbermann was particularly critical of rival network Fox News. His harshest critique was towards FOX commentators Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, frequently naming them along with radio host Rush Limbaugh as one of the “Worst Person in the World” in a segment popular with his fans. The segment was briefly discontinued after his suspension.
In the wake of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords in Arizona, killing six people and injuring thirteen others at a “meet and greet” public event, President Obama, many elected officials and members of the news media have asked commentators on both ends of the political spectrum to tone down their rhetoric. FOX News Chairman Roger Ailes told his staff after the Arizona shooting, “I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast.”
Olbermann signed a four year contract with MSNBC two years ago and made “Countdown” the network’s top-rated show.
MSNBC announced that Lawrence O’Donnell, who had frequently filled in for Olbermann before starting his own 10 p.m. show, will take over Olbermann’s time slot starting Monday. “The Ed Show,” with Ed Schultz, would move to 10 p.m. Cenk Uygur of the Web show “The Young Turks,” will fill Schultz’s 6 p.m. time slot.
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