Keith Olbermann was just fired from Current TV — and we hear that chances of him actually showing up to a slated appearance with old Sports Center cohost Dan Patrick at a panel in New York City next Thursday are not much higher than the lottery odds. Guess Dan will have to do this one by himself. Not that he should be surprised, given Keith's history of trouble with his networks.
If anything it's comforting. Current is the fourth network to have a public, emotional break-up with Olbermann, and reading his statement alongside his former network's is a reminder of of the unstoppable force-immovable object relationship between the World's Most Impossible Man and the World's Most Impossible Profession. Here are highlights from his biggest breakups.
Mike Soltys, ESPN Exec:
"He didn't burn bridges there. He napalmed them."
"I just felt that Keith was an unhappy person. He made a lot of people unhappy around him. I'm sure he made me unhappy."
I hate to put this on the record, but I'm really annoyed that Suzy has portrayed herself as this sweet bystander victim all the time. I swear on my niece's head that this is true. When those touch-and-go negotiations for her to stay in '96 ended, we were all working in a trailer while they rebuilt the newsroom, and Dan I were even sharing a computer. And one day she comes in and tells everybody-and I mean every on-air guy on the network was in this double-wide-"I'm leaving for Fox. It's been real." And as soon as she was out the door everybody stood and applauded. McQuade came over to me and said "Well at least her time here produced something positive. You get her computer.
Fox Sports Net:
"I fired him. He's crazy."
Olbermann, in "Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN":
David Hill's take on the history of Fox Sports Net is hilarious. He was intimately involved in hiring me for Fox Sports and Fox Sports Net. I met with him the first day I was on the lot in LA. And the idea that "our ratings dropped" because I made them look too much like ESPN is nonsensical. "Our ratings dropped" because when the genius behind the project, Tony Ball, suddenly left to return to England, Hill took over and saw the opportunity to instantly raise ratings by 10 or 20% by taking our show out of head-to-head timeslot competition with SportsCenter. None of the ESPN management had ever been in a serious competition before. They were winning 100 to 2 in the first quarter and all they could think of was "my God! They scored two points on us! Change everything! Kill everyone!" I got calls from all the key managers — all of them — looking for jobs at Fox. Norby included. Utter panic over the fact that we had succeeded in growing a dandelion — one dandelion — in their driveway. So Hill managed to give that entire psychological victory back. While putting on "Strongest Man" competitions against Dan in fact raise our ratings from lousy to 10% less lousy, what they signaled to ESPN was, we were no longer serious. And we weren't helped by Chris Myers, who started going on the air with absolutely made-up "scoops" and started leaking to everybody he could about how mean I was to him.
Olbermann on "Countdown" last year:
"Instead of anchoring six days a week in the Los Angeles studio, they were going to have me anchor four days and then fly to and from different interviews, events, and promotions, etc. in other cities two different times per week. In short, they were threatening to work me into illness or into the hospital or both... They were blackmailing me about my health, and Fox blackmail works. And that's the way it works. Lord only knows, if it works so well against someone with resources and a high profile like mine, how often was it used against lesser figures in the company?"
At a meeting with Olbermann's representatives last September, NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and NBC News President Steve Capus said that some of their client's behavior was unacceptable and had to stop. Griffin said that Olbermann's personal problems were affecting his work and he looked angrier on the air, eclipsing the smart and ironic anchor they had once loved.
In November, when Griffin suspended Olbermann indefinitely over the political donations, the two sides engaged in blistering negotiations over how long it would last. Olbermann's manager, Price, warned Griffin that if the matter wasn't resolved quickly, Olbermann would take his complaints public by accepting invitations from Good Morning America, David Letterman, and Larry King.
"If you go on GMA, I will fire Keith," Griffin shot back.
From Olbermann's final broadcast:
There were many occasions, particularly in the last two and a half years, where all that surrounded the show — but never the show itself — was just too much for me. But your support and loyalty — if I may use the word insistence — ultimately required that I keep going.
Mr. Olbermann, who was hired last year to be the top star of the upstart liberal news source, had been on the job scarcely three months when trouble started. He declined Current's requests to host special hours of election coverage, apparently out of frustration about technical difficulties that have plagued his 8 p.m. program, "Countdown."
The channel decided to produce election shows without him. Mr. Olbermann, however, said he did not know that, and on Tuesday, the day of the Iowa caucus, the cold war of sorts reached a flash point. He held a staff meeting even though "Countdown" had been pre-empted.
Perceiving it to be an act of defiance, David Bohrman, Current's president, wrote a memo to Mr. Olbermann's staff telling them that the anchor had long ago given up the opportunity to anchor on election nights. "We assumed," he wrote, that "Keith had communicated to you."
Al Gore's "Letter to Viewers":
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.
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 Al Gore and Joel Hyatt 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 implied in Current's statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. 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.
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.