Olbermann's boosterism was essential to Maddow getting her MSNBC gig; her regular fill-in role on Countdown basically served as a try-out. When Maddow launched, Olbermann offered a fulsome, heartfelt welcome to his new ideological soulmate and participated in lengthy throws between his show and hers to shepherd his audience to her. It was a master-apprentice relationship, with the magnanimous and successful Olbermann lending a hand to a bright new upstart. What could go wrong?
Well, Olbermann has a bit of an ego, doesn't he? As we noted earlier today, he has said it "fires on all cylinders," and described it as a "personality disorder" that can be useful in his business. So when young grasshopper beats your show in the ratings, and becomes a star in her own right, maybe that old competitive instinct that got you this far kicks in. Perhaps a friendly rivalry develops. Maybe you start to feel a little bit more secure about your status once Saturday Night Live deems you worthy of an impersonation by none other than Ben Affleck. Don't worry, Old Boy, you've still got it!
And then Ben Affleck goes on his publicity tour for State of Play, and of course he'll come by Countdown so he can talk about what it's like to impersonate you, right? He's yours. It just makes sense. Where else would he go? What? Rachel? You made Rachel. Surely she'd defer to your seniority in this special instance and back off. She won't? Well, you are the top dog here at MSNBC, and it's unfortunate that you have to pull rank, but if she won't back down you'll just have to go up the chain of command, then. What? Phil Griffin won't sort this out for you? Well...well... fine then!
So, as CityFile reported, Olbermann took a few days off. He denied, through a publicist, that the Affleck booking had anything to do with it, invoking the death of his beloved mother two weeks prior as the true reason for his unexpected absence—there were "sad logistics" to take care of. It's hard to begrudge a man some days off work in the wake of such a loss. But there is the matter of David Shuster's Twitter message during Olbermann's time-out, blaming it on "flu/allergy season." And then there is our own well-placed source, who confirms CityFile's account of the rancor over the Affleck booking. And then there is this photograph, which CityFile found on Olbermann's Major League Baseball blog, and which was taken on April 16, the day before Olbermann took time off work to attend to those logistics.
Watch those Olbermann-Maddow throws carefully over the coming days.