Keith Olbermann, the famously fiery liberal anchor who left MSNBC in a huff just over a year ago to join the fledgling network, will be replaced as of tonight, reports the New York Times’ Brian Stelter.
In a series of Tweets issued from Olbermann’s account after the story broke, he promised legal action against his now-former employers. Strung together, his statement read: “I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV. Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring @AlGore and @JoelHyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program,finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract. It goes almost without saying that the claims against me in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently.”
He added, “To understand Mr. Hyatt’s ‘values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,’ I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain,” and then linked to a New York Times story. Olbermann continued, “In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.”
Stelter, in his initial reporting, wrote, “The decision to dismiss Mr. Olbermann was unanimous among the senior managers of Current, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
A media source told Raw Story, “We knew something was up because [Olbermann’s producers] were being super squirrelly about booking people, like, much more so than usual.”
Olbermann will be replaced, effective immediately, by disgraced former governor Elliot Spitzer (D-NY), whose CNN show failed miserably and was finally cancelled in July 2011. He joined the network in 2010, just over two years after he was forced to resign from the governorship following revelations that the married Spitzer spent upwards of tens of thousands of dollars to buy sex through an escort service even while cracking down on its business rivals as state attorney general.
An unintentionally ironic statement from Current TV founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt about Olbermann’s departure and his replacement by Spitzer read, in part, “Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.”
Stelter wrote that the real issue was Olbermann’s several absences since February, which he blamed on illness. However, according to Stelter’s sources, “Current considered some of those absences to be breaches of his contract, labeling them ‘unauthorized absences,'” including a previously unscheduled vacation day on the evening before the Super Tuesday primaries “despite a warning from Current that it would constitute a breach of contract.”
Spitzer’s show will reportedly be titled “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” making him, with former governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), the second former elected official to anchor a show at the former Vice President’s network.
Though tension with Olbermann spilled out in the open at the start of the Republican primary season after he was sidelined during the network’s Iowa and New Hampshire coverage, details emerged in The Daily Beast in February that relations at Current TV headquarters had deteriorated to the point that Gore was forced to ask Olbermann to stay.
Interestingly, before being forced out of office as a result of his infidelity and patronage of sex workers, Spitzer himself had a long-established reputation of being impossible for colleagues to deal with, and many political observers believed his inability to recover from his sex scandal had as much to do with his infamously prickly personality as his personal failings.
Gore and Hyatt said in their statement, “We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Governor Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.”
In a press release announcing his show, Gore called Spitzer, “a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day” who “has important opinions and insights” and “relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this important election year.” Spitzer, for his part, promised to, “provide insight into and analysis of the critical issues on the minds of Americans today.”