Keith Olbermann’s War With His MSNBC Bosses

Rachel Maddow is now his sole ally at the network.

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Keith Olbermann’s unpaid suspension--which was really more like a paid vacation--following revelations that he made campaign donations to Democrats was only one battle in his war with MSNBC. Network president Phil Griffin threatened to fire Olbermann if the anchor went on rival networks to defend his actions, but ended up only suspending him for two days, after Olbermann said he was (kinda) sorry in The New York Times.

Olbermann has been key to MSNBC’s success, but his position within the network is fragile, The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz reports. NBC News staffers are angry he damaged the brand’s reputation for independence. MSNBC workers have had enough with Olbermann’s diva-esque ways--like demanding staffers leave a note outside his office, instead of speaking to him personally. And with other stars like Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow on the rise, network execs say MSNBC could survive without him. "Management doesn’t want to turn him into a martyr,” Kurtz writes, “but no one will be shocked if he winds up leaving again.”

  • Olbermann Has MSNBC 'Over a Barrel' Forbes's Jeff Bercovici observes. “Olbermann has all the power here and he knows it. He bull-rushed Griffin into ending his suspension by threatening to air his grievances on 'Good Morning America' and other talk shows, and he also got MSNBC to agree to pay him for his time off even though it initially announced the 'indefinite' suspension would be unpaid. Griffin’s one tiny assertion of his authority was to end the suspension on Tuesday rather than Monday, as Olbermann had wanted. That’ll show him, Phil!"  On the other hand, Bercovici writes, "Olbermann is far and away the network’s biggest star, yes, but his loyalty is to himself, and running interference for him, as Griffin is constantly having to do, is getting ever harder." A network source tells Bercovici that Griffin "half hopes" Olbermann will quit and make life easier.
  • Olbermann and MSNBC Need Each Other, Hamilton Nolan at Gawker says that both Olbermann and MSNBC are making themselves look childish. "There could have been a serious and sober discussion of changing the outdated MSNBC policy after Olbermann returned from his suspension. Of course, that isn't what happened at all; Kurtz reconstructs scene after scene of Olbermann's reps and MSNBC execs bitching at each other, releasing competing public statements with no warning to the other side, and MSNBC prez Phil Griffin declaring at one point, 'We are at war.' No. Afghanistan is at war. You are cable news people arguing about the proper PR response to a trivial misstep by a talented but egocentric blowhard." Nolan continues, "In the end, unnamed NBC executives plant the suggestion that they'd be just fine without Olbermann—arguing, for example, 'Ed Schultz is gaining momentum.' Right."
  • Will Comcast Insist on More Professionalism? Jon Friedman wonders at MarketWatch. Expect a corporate culture clash when the cable provider takes over NBC-Universal. “Comcast is a highly successful, rather conservatively run organization. It particularly stands out in the clamorous New York-centric media universe, where controversies and scandals sometimes seem to be a way of life. Olbermann reacted to his brief suspension by blasting his employer’s policies. He may well have had a point — but, perhaps he shouldn’t have been so brazen, anyway. With a new owner coming on the scene he might be better off by trying to repair his image, not fan the flames. ... If I were a betting man, I’d suspect that Comcast would want to rein in MSNBC — and avoid any future controversies."
  • Comcast Will Crack Down, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey predicts. “First, if NBC has had enough of Olbermann’s angry-man routine, they’re not going to like Larry O’Donnell’s red-faced shouting rants any better, and neither will Comcast when it has to take over this mess.  Matthews has been around for years, and 'energized' is hardly the word for his work; Hardball has become Softball For Democrats.  Schultz is a one-note joke with the same Peter Finch Syndrome as O’Donnell and Olbermann.  Maddow does have broadcast chops, but she can’t carry four hours of prime time.  In fact, as their ratings show, none of them can.  They’ve managed to pass CNN only by allowing the first all-news network to stumble behind them.”
  • Not Liberal Media--Corporate Media, Steven D writes at Booman Tribune. Kurtz and be counted on “to always promote the backbiting and back stabbing of anonymous sources to attack liberals... It's slimy dirty rumor-mongering but a necessary exercise in the way the 'liberal media' like MsNBC isn't liberal at all. It's corporate media, and once Comcast assumes control all bets are off as to Olbermann's show. As for the gutless executive cowards 'who declined to be quoted by name' ... they knew exactly who to go to to spin the story to make Keith look bad: 'Liberal' Howie Kurtz. Kurtz the media critic who is enamored with the 'false equivalence' talking point that what Fox News does is the same as what Olbermann did." Steven D continues that when Comcast takes over, "Keith will get fired or backed into another 'confrontation' with 'management' in which he will be sorely tempted to resign rather than change his show."
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