On January 21, 2011, 671 days after the inauguration of Barack Obama as President, 673 days following the debut of “The Glenn Beck Show” on Fox News Channel and just 13 days after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Keith Olbermann, the host of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC, abruptly (or so it seemed) announced that “this is to be the last show on this network.” And following his “Friday’s with Thurber” segment, he went poof.
A little over an hour later, on “Real Time with Bill Maher”, Olbermann’s colleague and friend Rachel Maddow, in a stupor over what to say, said “It’s been a interesting day at work.” Even though she knew a lot more than what she was saying at the time. Or maybe less. According to Olbermann, who had been suspended for three days earlier for not revealing campaign contribution made to three Democratic Congressional Candidates (including Giffords) in 2010, he didn’t know until three minutes before he made the announcement that the exit was final.
It even caught the network off guard. They were still running promos for his program as late as the next morning. By then, people were, as usual, screaming on both sides of the spectrum. Olbermann had been a driving force in turning MSNBC into a liberal version of Fox News and it’s ultra-conservative network. With the abuses of the Bush administration, Olbermann led the charge for a more level-headed, liberal slant for a network who employed at one time the likes of Dan Abrams and Tucker Carlson. They were out, replaced by Maddow, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell.
Now, I have liked Olbermann since his days at ESPN. His pairing with Dan Patrick was the stuff that dreams are made of. It was called “The Big Show.” Nothing the Worldwide Leader has done since has matched it, with the exception of Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen. But that was nearly 20 years ago, and even though they were reunited on NBC’s “Football Night” pregame, that was short-lived.
That he spent eight years at MSNBC was a bit of a miracle in itself. His first stint at the network ended after he did 400-some odd shows leading with OJ Simpson. He then went to work for Fox Sports and left there, too. Even though he lagged behind Fox, he still had the largest audience on MSNBC. So, I think his exit in January had more to do with his employers than him.
To see him at Current almost five months later isn’t what NBC (or their new owners, Comcast) expected. Nor did anyone else for that matter, critic and supporter alike. We will see what happens, but the way the world turns these days, Olbermann might end up back at MSNBC one day, or his friends and colleagues might end up on Current. I think it’ll be the latter rather than the former. By this time next year, you could see Cenk Uyger and Ed Schultz at Current (which is also partially owned by Comcast). Followed by Maddow and O’Donnell.
Olbermann isn’t Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. He is smart, funny, swarmmy, sarcastic, biting, bitter, and intelligent. He also alienates friends, co-workers, bosses and viewers. But I think he’s honest and has his facts straight (keeping in mind that in today’s world, one man’s facts are Joe Wilson’s lies) and I will welcome him back tomorrow with a smile and a laugh. A smile at knowing that we got our voice back and a laugh at those who thought that after that bewildering Friday night in January, that we had seen the last of him.