Keith Olbermann has held politicians of both sides of the fence to a higher level of accountability through his popular political show, but today he did it for the last time. Tonight he surprised his entire audience by announcing his departure, starting a firestorm of speculation as to the sudden dismissal.
Stunning his Countdown audience, Keith Olbermann announced at the very end of his show tonight that this would be the last edition of Countdown. He gave no explanation but thanked his audience.
Within minutes MSNBC released a statement indicating that it was not renewing Keith’s contract.
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.
We’ll add details as we get them. But the first question has to be: Is this the first action by cable conglomerate Comcast, after the FCC and Justice Department approved their takeover of NBC, in deciding what we see on television?
But the New York Times reports that it was just a mutual agreement to bring things to an end.
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.
Here is Olbermann’s farewell speech, via Crooks and Liars:
I think the same fantasy popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told — “this will be the last edition of your show.” You go to the scene from the movie Network, complete with the pajamas and the raincoat, and go off on a verbal journey of unutterable vision, and you insist upon Peter Finch’s guttural resonance, and you will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell. You know the rest. In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative. When I resigned from ESPN 13 1/2 years ago, I was given 30 seconds to say goodbye at the end of my last edition of SportsCenter. With God as my witness, in the commercial break before the moment, the producer got into my earpiece and said, ‘Can you cut it down to 15 seconds so we can get in the tennis result?’ I’m grateful that I have more time to sign off here.
Regardless, this is the last edition of Countdown. It is just under 8 years since I returned to MSNBC. I was supposed to fill in for exactly three days. 49 days later, there was a year’s contract for me to return to this 8:00 time slot that I fled years earlier. The show established its position as anti-establishment with the stage craft of mission accomplished to the exaggerated rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq to the death of Pat Tillman to Hurricane Katrina to the nexus of politics and terror to the first Special Comment. The program grew entirely due to your support and great commentary. I hope for you too. There were many occasions where all that surrounded the show, and never the show itself, was too much for me. With your support and loyalty — if I may use the word insistence — required that I keep going. My gratitude to you is boundless and you think I have done good here, imagine how it looked as you donated $2 million to the National Association of Free Clinics and my dying father watched from his hospital bed and comforted that his struggles were inspiring such good for people, he and I and you would never meet, but would always know. This may be the only television program where in the host the much more in awe of the audience than vice-versa. We will also be in my heart for that and the donations to the family in Tennessee and these victims of governmental heartlessness in Arizona to say nothing of every letter and tweet and wave and handshake and online petition. Time ebbs here and top the close with more story. It is still Friday. Let me thank my gifted staff and a few of the many people who fought with me and for me: Eric Sorenson, Neal Shapiro, Michael Weiss, David Bloom, John Palmer, Alana Russo. Rachel Maddow and Bob Costas and my greatest protector, the late Tim Russert.