I live in a world where Glenn Beck has a cable TV show … and Keith Olbermann doesn’t

… and you do too. Here’s Keith’s sign-off:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And here’s the back-story …

From the New York Times:

12:05 a.m. | Updated Keith Olbermann, the highest-rated host on MSNBC, announced abruptly on the air Friday night that he was leaving his show, “Countdown,” immediately.

The host, who has had a stormy relationship with the management of the network for some time, especially since he was suspended for two days last November, came to an agreement with NBC’s corporate management late this week to settle his contract and step down.

In a closing statement on his show, Mr. Olbermann said simply that it would be the last edition of the program. He offered no explanation other than on occasion “all that surrounded the show – but never the show itself – was just too much for me.”

Mr. Olbermann thanked his viewers for their enthusiastic support of a show that had “gradually established its position as antiestablishment.”

In a statement, MSNBC said: “MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

NBC executives said the move had nothing to do with the impending takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast. With viewers and fans of Mr. Olbermann suggesting that Comcast was responsible for forcing Mr. Olbermann out, Comcast also released an official statement late Friday night:

“Comcast has not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and has no operational control at any of its properties including MSNBC. We pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal’s news operations. We have not and we will not.”

MSNBC announced that “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell would replace “Countdown” at 8 p.m., with “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz taking Mr. O’Donnell’s slot at 10 p.m. Mr. Olbermann did not discuss any future plans, but NBC executives said one term of his settlement would keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time.

The Times cited Olbermann’s suspension for making donations to Democratic candidates, ironically including Gabby Giffords of Arizona, as one in a number of upheavals between him and MSNBC brass.

Mediaite, which was founded by former MSNBC manager Dan Abrams, has more inside scoop:

Sources tell Mediaite Keith Olbermann and MSNBC were headed for a breakup long before Comcast’s rise to power, but clearly something set the divorce into motion quickly today, with network promos set to run touting Olbermann’s role in MSNBC’s coverage of next week’s State of the Union address–and, notably, a Keith Olbermann promo running on MSNBC in the hour after the host signed off and left the network.

MSNBC executives have long planned for the day the network’s star might be sent packing, and the rise of Rachel Maddow at MSNBC–along with the grooming of Lawrence O’Donnell as a potential replacement for Olbermann–appears to have hastened the host’s departure.

While Olbermann and his iconic Countdown have been immensely important in the resurgence of MSNBC, Olbermann’s friction with management has been a sticking point. At many points–including the recent suspension over political contributions–tensions rose so high as to lead to serious discussions inside MSNBC about firing their star.

With Maddow enjoying both immense popularity inside MSNBC and very strong ratings for herRachel Maddow Show, Olbermann’s invincibility as the heart and soul of MSNBC’s brand became softer. In recent weeks, sources tell Mediaite there have been meetings on the topic of Keith Olbermann and his future at the network. Did Comcast–as many Countdown viewers seem to suspect–order Olbermann out? It appears that the end of the Olbermann era at MSNBC was not “ordered” by Comcast, nor was it a move to tone down the network’s politics. Instead, sources inside the network say it came down to the more mundane world of office politics–Olbermann was a difficult employee, who clashed with bosses, colleagues and underlings alike, and with the Comcast-related departure of Jeff Zucker, and the rise of Maddow and O’Donnell, the landscape shifted, making an Olbermann exit suddenly seem well-timed.

Rachel Maddow was asked about Keith’s departure on “Real Time” last night, but had no new info to share.

And now, a special comment:

It seems from the reporting that Olbermann’s ouster was more about personality clashes with management than about Comcast taking over MSNBC, but that’s not going to convince many die-hard Keith fans.

I too am a fan, and while I often disagreed with Keith’s stinging, often relentless criticisms of President Obama, I think he did this nation a service in his years on Countdown, shining a needed light on everything from the absurdity of the Clinton impeachment to the excesses and outrages of the Bush administration to the blind, right wing lunacy of Fox News.

Keith was, to be fair, in a somewhat awkward position with a Democratic president in office, having to walk the line between partisan sucking up (a la Fox in the Bush era) and accountability. For the most part, I think he did a good job, though on occasion, I had to turn him off just to keep my head form exploding. Keith had some awkward moments, especially online, with DaiyKos and Twitter, but he embraced the new world of social networking in a way that few news types have — and his online persona is funny, candid and revealing, even when it’s also temperamental and thin-skinned.

I know for sure that Keith came to define MSNBC, for its supporters and its critics alike, and for any broadcaster, that’s a masterful achievement.

I’ve never met Keith Olbermann. I saw him in the hallway at Rockefeller Center once, when I was up there to do on-air stuff about the election, but frankly, I was too intimidated to talk to him (he was kind of slouching through the hallway and didn’t look like he was in the mood to chat.) But I thoroughly respect the man, and know that once his no-compete expires, he’ll be back, someplace, better than ever. The day I saw him in NY, I bought my daughter a Keith bobblehead at the NBC Experience store. She’s 15, but she had specifically asked for a Keith memento from my trip, because even though she’s a kid, and not particularly interested in news, she too, is a fan.

That’s what I call impact.

And as to the title of this post, I’ll just say this.

In a world where CNN thinks it wisdom to put Erick Erickson — who called a Supreme Court justice a “goat fucking child molester,” and who threaten to shoot any Census worker who came to his door; and where that same CNN thought Rick Sanchez was too hot to handle …

… In a world where Fox News literally spends the day thinking of creative ways to smear the president of the United States, after having spent the previous eight years playing Pravda to George W. Bush, and where Glenn Beck — the Glenn Beck who smears Jews as Nazi collaborators and “enemies of humanity“ because they dare to fund Democrats … who calls a president with a white mother a “racist,” and who calls his political opponents Marxists night after night, provoking both cult-like devotion and violent rage in his loopier devotees …

… In a world where these men are still on the air, it’s amazing that Keith Olbermann will no longer be, even if only because of his inability to get along with his bosses.

Frankly, I think that says more about those other networks than it does about the one Keith just left, but it surely says something. Media is a tough business, and it’s important that talent and management get in sync and get on well (just ask Conan O’Brien.) I’m sure Keith would say the same, and in this case, things just didn’t work out. I don’t think it’s any more conspiratorial than that, but that doesn’t make it any less sad to see him go.

So all the best to you, Keith. Let us know on Twitter where you’ll turn up next.

Related: What the loss of Olbermann means for liberals

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2 Responses to I live in a world where Glenn Beck has a cable TV show … and Keith Olbermann doesn’t

  1. Rupert says:

    Good comment!
    As everyone else, I said a “WTF?” last night when Keith said it would be the last Countdown. Keith has twice been something of a pioneer in the media business, and I’m sure he’ll look for a way to go for a third time.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention I live in a world where Glenn Beck has a cable TV show … and Keith Olbermann doesn’t : The Reid Report -- Topsy.com

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