Olbermann, MSNBC have 'mutual parting of ways'
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Keith Olbermann's exit from MSNBC appeared abrupt to viewers of his show, but the talk-show host and his network were involved "in a relationship that's been failing for a long time," an NBC Universal executive said Saturday.
Mr. Olbermann's announcement at the end of Friday's "Countdown" that it would be his last show quiets, at least for the moment, the most dominant liberal voice in a cable-television world where opinionated talk has been the most bankable trend over the past several years.
As Mr. Olbermann read from a James Thurber short story during a three-minute exit statement Friday night, MSNBC simultaneously e-mailed a statement to reporters that the network and host "have ended their contract." Neither indicated a reason nor addressed whether Mr. Olbermann quit or was fired.
But the NBC Universal executive characterized it as a mutual parting of the ways, with Mr. Olbermann taking the first step. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because settlement talks were kept confidential.
Mr. Olbermann was nearly fired in November but instead was suspended for two days without pay for violating an NBC News policy by donating to three political campaigns, including the congressional campaign of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He returned and apologized to his fans, but not the network.
Last fall, Mr. Olbermann saw his role on NBC's 'Sunday Night Football" eliminated. Mr. Olbermann, a former sports anchor, had willingly worked six days a week to be involved with the highly rated football telecast. NBC said he was removed so he could concentrate on his MSNBC job.
MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines insisted Mr. Olbermann's exit had nothing to do with the acquisition of parent company NBC Universal by Comcast, which received regulatory approval Tuesday. That deal marks the exit of NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker, who saw Mr. Olbermann's value in turning around a once-unprofitable network, despite headaches the mercurial personality sometimes caused his bosses.
Mr. Olbermann and his manager did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
First Published January 23, 2011 12:00 am