Know What I Have In Common With Keith Olbermann?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 22, 2011

Neither one of us currently has a show on MSNBC. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

There has been a lot of talk that Olbermann’s politics, and/or NBC’s merger with Comcast helped bring about Olbermann’s abrupt firing (and let’s not kid ourselves; Olbermann was fired). But the facts appear to tell a different story:

. . . 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.

TMZ tells us the same thing. Normally, I wouldn’t trust TMZ to tell me that the sky is blue, but in this case, they appear to have the story right. See also Kurtz:

Without question, [Olbermann] was a polarizing presence, and several NBC veterans, including Tom Brokaw, complained to network management that he was damaging MSNBC’s reputation for independence.

At a meeting with Olbermann’s representatives last September, NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and NBC News President Steve Capus said that some of their client’s behavior was unacceptable and had to stop. Griffin said that Olbermann’s personal problems were affecting his work and he looked angrier on the air, eclipsing the smart and ironic anchor they had once loved.

[. . .]

Olbermann could be his own worst enemy. After Scott Brown won the Senate race in Massachusetts last January, Olbermann called him “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.” After [Jon] Stewart criticized that rant, Olbermann said: “I have been a little over the top lately. Point taken. Sorry.”

Even during our 2006 conversation, the former sportscaster was envisioning an exit strategy: “If it gets too hot and I have to get out of the kitchen, I’ll go do sports.”

Numerous staffers at MSBNC believed it was only a matter of time before the prime-time host, who once quit ESPN, would either bolt or be pushed out. If Olbermann concluded that he would no longer have the independence he craved in the more buttoned-down Comcast era, it is unlikely that anyone in the NBC executive suites tried to talk him out of it.

Olbermann won’t be missed, of course. Those who look for “toxic rhetoric” in our political discourse need only look to his show for examples. And of course, many of those who denounce “toxic rhetoric” are the same ones who wholeheartedly endorsed and approved of Olbermann’s antics. Which makes them hypocrites, of course.

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