Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keith Olbermann leaves MSNBC

Keith Olbermann announced on air on Friday that that edition of Countdown would be his last. He is leaving MSNBC.

He did not say why, but he hinted that he was being let go: "I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told: that this is going to be the last edition of your show."

His was MSNBC's flagship show, its most popular and, in a way, the show that defined the entire network. His being let go may have something to do with Comcast taking over NBC. Perhaps his new bosses just didn't want him anymore.

Perhaps they dislike him, perhaps they dislike what he stands for, perhaps they intend to move the network away from the left. Or perhaps not, or at least not yet. The prime-time line-up will still feature Maddow and O'Donnell, the latter of whom will be moving to Olbermann's 8 pm slot, as well as Schultz. (As Politico is reporting, however, "Comcast distanced itself from any notion that it had something to do with the decision, releasing a midnight statement saying it had not yet closed its transaction with NBC Universal and so does not yet have operational control," and had no intention of interfering with NBC's "news operations" in any event.)

Perhaps money had something to do with it. Given Maddow's success, if not quite as his level, perhaps he just wasn't needed anymore, and perhaps the network, new owner in place or not, figured it was best to buy him out of the remaining two years on his four-year, $30-million contract.

Or perhaps it was just time, given that it was bound to happen eventually. As The New York Times's Bill Carter notes, "NBC's management had been close to firing Mr. Olbermann on previous occasions, most recently in November after he revealed that he had made donations to several Democratic candidates in 2010," including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Similarly, Politico reports that "several sources close to the situation said its roots lay in Olbermann's defiant reaction to being suspended," a suspension that was incredibly stupid.

So while Olbermann may only have learned of his firing, if we may call it that, on Friday, or while perhaps a deal was reached sometime within the last couple of days, it's pretty clear that the network was just waiting for the right time to push him out.

Anyway, I'm sure more will leak out before too long.

As for me, needless to say, I'll miss Olbermann immensely, and I highly doubt that MSNBC will be the same, that is, as effective a vehicle for liberal-progressive commentary in opposition to the conservative propaganda of Fox News, without him.

But of course he'll be back. He'll likely have to do like Conan and stay off the air for awhile, but I'm sure he'll find another network soon enough, assuming he wants to do what he's been doing.

I'd say CNN, but that network, once a leader, is apparently committed to lameness and irrelevance. It's the network of Piers Morgan, after all, all due respect to Anderson Cooper.

So we'll see. We still have Maddow, of course, and Colbert as well. I'd add Stewart, but I fear he may have jumped the shark, as they say, some time ago. But there's no one quite like Olbermann, no one I've found so moving and so inspiring while also so admirably pugnacious among television's leading commentators. I think back to his Special Comment about his father last February, one of the most amazing things I've ever seen on TV, and I'm still almost brought to tears.

What country is this? A country that needs Olbermann on the air.

Good night, and good luck, Keith. Come back soon.


Here's Olbermann signing off:

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  • This continued animosity toward Jon Stewart boggles my mind. When he did his entire show on the 9/11 responders, he pretty much was responsible for shaming the GOP into dropping their hold on that bill and passing it during their lame duck session. It all stems back from this myth perpetuated by (sorry our martyred Keith) that his rally raised an equivalency in the type of rhetoric both sides use, which it did not. Amazingly though, perhaps it should have because in the wake of Tucson, the most rabid of the left have acted as ridiculous as those on the right in trying to hang on to their wish fulfillment that the nut job who shot Gabrielle Giffords was a member of the Tea Party or worshipped Sarah Palin or had a permanent Glenn Beck feed running in his ear. The sad truth is that even though I side ideologically with the left, the extreme on my side are as addicted to the vitriol as those on the right. I thought Ed Schulz's head was going to explode the night Dennis Kucinich was on after Tucson and said that he had been impressed with how statesman-like John Boehner had been serving as speaker so far. Kucinich said he opposed Boehner on nearly every issue, but he wasn't being a flamethrower. I thought Schulz was going to start yelling at Kucinich but he couldn't because Kucinich began almost every sentence with "I love you Ed but..." Too many people fail to realize that just because someone holds positions that you think are wrong or even reprehensible, that is not the same thing as that person engaging in crazy, uncivil, vitriolic discourse of the type Limbaugh and Beck toss out daily. More importantly, the more we allow ourselves to get caught up in that type of nonsense and return fire, we just sink to their level and real issues get lost. We should rise above it and show we are better than that. That's what Stewart was longing for and who he was blaming for not allowing that to happen was the media, which would rather cover conflict than the actual give and take of governance. Each side also has the unfortunate habit of defending their side no matter what. Palin's target map becomes "surveyor signs" but the poster on Daily Kos who wrote that Giffords was "dead" to them when she voted against Pelosi as majority leader gets defended as a completely different form of speech that no one should have taken as something ominous.

    By Blogger Edward Copeland, at 10:24 PM  

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