Final update 11:09 p.m. EST
The liberal host of MSNBC’s “Countdown” has completed his last broadcast for the cable news network he called home for the past eight years.
“Good night, and good luck,” Keith Olbermann said as he threw his script behind him for the last time at the end of his show.
The phrase is one he borrowed from the late veteran radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow.
MSNBC released a short statement, saying that the two parties had not apparently reached agreement on Olbermann’s contact.
“MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract,” the statement said.
It continued, “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.”
No further explanation was given.
Olbermann thanked a number of people in his sign-off, but failed to mention any MSNBC executives.
An MSNBC spokesperson told The Washington Post Friday night that the NBC Universal-Comcast merger this week played no role in Olbermann’s departure. MSNBC’s president would not comment.
A second statement from MSNBC concerning line-up changes gave no mention of Olbermann either.
Following Olbermann Friday night, Maddow did not cover her co-worker’s departure.
Oddly enough, halfway through her show, MSNBC featured an ad promoting Olbermann’s show, according to The Guardian.
Maddow, appearing as a guest on RealTime with Bill Maher (see embedded video below) live after her show, addressed Olbermann’s departure. Details, though, were sparse.
“Yeah, it’s been a big day at MSNBC. At least it’s been in 15 minutes,” she said.
Maher did not buy Maddow’s explanation that Olbermann and the new company had cuts ties by “mutual decision.”
“That’s always bullshit,” Maher said.
“I know very little,” Maddow replied, immediately describing Olbermann’s exit as “very gracious and nice.”
In an early report, CNN’s Anderson Cooper said on his Twitter feed that Olbermann was fired. Raw Story initially reported that Olbermann had quit. However, MSNBC used neither phrase.
Olbermann and management have had a rocky relationship over the years; recently, the host was suspended for two days last November for contributing to Democratic election campaigns against company policy.
In 2008, Olbermann and MSNBC agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $30 million. This past week, the FCC and the Justice Department approved the merger of Comcast and NBC-Universal.
Sam Stein, Huffington Post’s political reporter, said via Twitter that Comcast’s merger had less to do with Olbermann’s exit than with Jeff Zucker leaving his post as president and CEO of NBC Universal.
“Zucker was Olbermann’s protector there,” Stein said.
Mediaite also cast the Olbermann/MSNBC split in terms of office politics.
“Countdown,” the network’s top-rated program, attracted 1.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen. However, Olbermann failed to match the ratings of FoxNews’ most popular anchor Bill O’Reilly.
Media mogul Russell Simmons reacted on his blog to Olbermann’s November suspension by stating that the network would end up suffering.
“Without Olbermann, MSNBC can’t survive – and the voice of progress will fall to the dark ages, when one unholy church dictated a fictional version of the truth,” he said.
Simmons concluded, “Re-instate Keith Olbermann now. I will personally pay his campaign contributions.”
Word is that CNN would not hire Olbermann because of the network’s strict non-partisan editorial perspective.
Olbermann has yet to reveal his plans.
Here is the transcript of Olbermann’s Final Thought from his final show:
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.
This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast Jan. 21, 2011.
This video is from RealTime with Bill Maher, broadcast Jan 21, 2011, via Mediaite.