Less than a year after he returned to television with an equity stake in the broadcaster, Keith Olbermann has flamed out again. He has been terminated by Current TV, effective immediately. His 8pm flagship show will be replaced starting tonight by former CNN host and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Mr. Olbermann did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Current indicated that he had failed to honor the terms of his five-year, $50 million contract, giving the channel the right to terminate it.
In the letter, the channel’s founders, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, wrote: “We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before. Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.”
You could see the seeds of this for a while. On the rare occasions that I tuned into Olbermann’s Current show recently, I was struck by the spare black background behind him. Apparently he had problems with the technical output of the program, and took it out on his own show by eliminating the set. Then he refused to join Current’s primary coverage for several weeks, and missed days on his own show as well. He recently took a vacation day on March 5, according to Brian Stelter, which Current alleged was a breach of contract.
There would not be any news programming on Current if Olbermann hadn’t agreed to join the channel and kickstart its fledgling coverage. He was joined by Jennifer Granholm, Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks, and simulcasted shows from liberal radio hosts Bill Press and Stephanie Miller. But Olbermann was the anchor, and he also had an equity stake in the company. It’s unclear what happens to that.
Olbermann now has the distinction of being fired from almost every major cable news channel on television – CNN, MSNBC and now Current. He never appeared on Fox News, but he did work for Fox Broadcasting, and was fired from there. As he would say on ESPN, you can’t stop him, you can’t even hope to contain him.
Olbermann was supposed to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Netroots Nation event. It’s unclear what happens to that appearance now.
UPDATE: Olbermann’s statement is typically combative:
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.
It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain.
In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.