MSNBC suspended the host of their popular show Countdown with Keith Olbermann earlier this month after it was discovered that he donated money to three Democratic candidates without permission.
But most people don’t know that behind the scenes MSNBC president Phil Griffin went as far as to threaten to fire Olbermann, according to a new report by The Daily Beast‘s Howard Kurtz.
After Politico reported the donations Thursday Nov. 4, Griffin told Olbermann’s manager, David Price, that he hoped a suspension wouldn’t be necessary, Kurtz reported.
But the next morning, “Griffin told Price he would have to take Olbermann off the air indefinitely,” Kurtz wrote.
That day, Griffin announced he had suspended Olbermann “indefinitely without pay” for violating a company policy that all political donations must be approved.
Politico’s Mike Allen reported that Olbermann would have been allowed to stay on the air if he had agreed to broadcast an apology.
“The sniping grew worse,” Kurtz’ report said. “Olbermann’s side asked why he was being penalized when Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman who hosted Morning Joe, had given $5,000 to a state candidate in Alabama the previous spring. Griffin checked and Scarborough provided the bank record showing that his wife had made the donation to a friend.”
“It was Sunday, Nov. 7, and Price informed Griffin that if they couldn’t resolve their differences quickly, Olbermann would take his complaints public by accepting invitations from Good Morning America, David Letterman, and Larry King,” Kurtz noted.
“If you go on GMA, I will fire Keith,” Griffin reportedly told Price.
Later that Sunday, Griffin announced that Olbermann would be again be hosting Countdown that Tuesday.
“After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night’s program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy,” Griffin wrote. “We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night.”
Apparently Olbermann learned about Griffin’s statement through the media. Price called Griffin again and asked, “What compelled you to do that in that way?”
“We are at war,” Griffin said.
Since then, both sides have made attempts to make amends. Griffin got an apology from Price for yelling at him on the phone and the network decided to pay Olbermann for the days that he was suspended.
“On one point, all sides seem to agree: With the notable exception of Maddow, his onetime protégée, Olbermann has no major allies left at 30 Rock. And that, given his history of crusading against authority, may be how he likes it,” Kurtz observed.