Once again, Keith Olbermann is looking for a job. It’s the second time in little more than a year that the oft-volatile and bombastic left-wing cable news broadcaster has left his post under tumultuous circumstances, this time from Current TV, the network cofounded by former Vice President Al Gore.
Olbermann joined Current TV as “chief news officer” and host of his show “Countdown,” reportedly with a five-year, $50 million contract.
But soon there developed hitches in the show and tension with network management, according to various reports.
During the primary election season he declined to host certain hours of election coverage and has missed a number of regular broadcasts, as well as complaining about technical problems he said undermined his show.
In a statement, Gore and Current TV cofounder Joel Hyatt said the network was "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."
In a statement posted online, Olbermann countered 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."
He said he had been attempting "for more than a year" to resolve his differences with Gore and Hyatt internally, "while I've not been publicizing my complaints." Instead of "investing in a quality news program," he said, his bosses "thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract."
He called his decision to join Current "a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one."
Before joining Current TV, Olbermann spent eight years at MSNBC, where he remained a controversial figure.
He feuded loudly with conservative Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who he frequently awarded his “"Worst Person in the World" label. The New York Times called it “perhaps the fiercest media feud of the decade.”
On occasion, Olbermann apologized for statements he acknowledged were “over the top” – most infamously his description of then US Senate candidate Scott Brown as "an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, Tea Bagging supporter of violence against women, and against politicians with whom he disagrees.”
Even comedian Jon Stewart, who rarely holds back himself, found it startling – "the harshest description of anyone I've ever heard uttered on MSNBC.”
Just before the 2010 mid-term elections, Olbermann was suspended without pay for several days when MSNBC executives learned that he had donated $2,400 each to three Democratic candidates for Congress.
“Keith Olbermann is a gifted thinker, an amazing talent and a powerful communicator,” Mr. Gore said when announcing Olbermann’s move to Current last year. “In a world where there are fewer and fewer opportunities to hear truly distinct, unfettered voices on television, we are delighted to provide Keith with the independent platform and freedom that Current can, and does uniquely offer.”
Olbermann’s strident voice may remain unfettered, but for now at least he no longer has the independent platform to stir up and entertain his left-leaning fandom.
He’s being replaced by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, also an alumnus of MSNBC. Spitzer’s show is called “Viewpoint.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.