In a stunning move last night, Keith Olbermann signed off from MSNBC. He reportedly was only halfway through a four year contract and the reasons for his exit remain unclear. Following the last edition of Countdown, the cone of silence was activated at 30 Rock. The network would only issue a statement thanking Keith for his “integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
In his goodbye statement at the end of Friday’s show, Olbermann thanked his viewers for sticking with him. He also thanked numerous collegues at MSNBC including the late Tim Russert, but no mention was made of network president Phil Griffin.
Olbermann has had a long reputation as a difficult talent, leaving behind him a trail of burned bridges at almost every stop in his career. After leaving ESPN, he first landed at MSNBC in 1997 and left during the Monica Lewinsky scandal a year later saying the coverage was making him ashamed and depressed. Returning to the network as a substitute host in 2003, he given his own show a few months later. Countdown with Keith Olbermann would soon become the face of the MSNBC franchise, paving the way for other liberal hosts to follow such as Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz. Keith would be also become a lightning rod for criticism from the old guard at NBC with some claiming he was hurting the network with his over the top “Special Comment” pieces and his on air feuds with Fox News. His rants against “Billo the Clown” and “Rupert the Pirate-ARRRGH” caused the heads of MSNBC and Fox to hold several meetings in an attempt to end the acrimony.
With neither side commenting on the reasons for the departure, the internet is running wild with rumors. Is it because of the impending Comcast takeover? Did MSNBC and Keith just tire of each other? Is there another opportunity for Keith on the horizon?
Some DC news insiders speculate that Olbermann just might land at CNN. The network’s primetime is in a shambles; Spitzer-Parker is on life support, Piers Morgan continues to shed viewers more each night, and Anderson Cooper has turned his attention to a new syndicated show starting this fall. Keith just might be the spark to light a comeback at CNN.
Starting Monday, the Countdown slot will be filled by Laurence O’Donnell, who was Keith’s main fill-in until recently receiving his own show The Ed Show with Ed Schultz will take over O’Donnell’s 10PM slot. Olbermann fans will just have to wait to see what happens next. But until then you still can get his talking bobblehead from the NBC-Universal store website. “What stories will you be talking about tomorrow?”