MSNBC vs. Keith Olbermann: War of the Divas

Keith Olbermann's brief suspension from MSNBC was actually a paid vacation—the network's decided to pay him for the days he was off the air. Also, both sides have decided to snipe at each other anonymously, like petty little divas.

Howie Kurtz gets the whole aftermath story today, which consists mostly of unnamed NBC sources bitching about what Keith Olbermann is doing to "MSNBC's reputation for independence," which is a patently dumb argument (please see here or here for a fuller explanation of why).

When Olbermann was caught violating company rules by giving political donations, it would have been gracious and mature for both sides to agree on a suitable suspension period, and for Olbermann to apologize, and then for everyone to move on. There could have been a serious and sober discussion of changing the outdated MSNBC policy after Olbermann returned from his suspension.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. But as bad as the executives make themselves look, it's also clear that Keith has made himself a lot of enemies:

Even those who admired Olbermann's broadcasting skills felt that his behavior, such as making his staff leave notes outside his door rather than speaking to him, had gone too far. He was a royal pain, they said, and management had become exhausted trying to rein him in.

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. MSNBC needs Keith Olbermann. And Keith Olbermann needs MSNBC. But not as much as they both need to get over themselves.

[The Daily Beast]