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Keith Olbermann’s Countdown Comes to an Abrupt End on MSNBC

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Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC’s Countdown announced toward the end of this evening’s broadcast that this would be his final show. Thanking his audience of the past eight-plus years, Olbermann gave no reasons but introduced his farewell with references to the film Network and the famous scene in which the newsman-protagonist stands at an open window shouting “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.”

The network issued this simple statement with very little explanation about why:  “MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of Countdown with Keith Olbermann will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.” Olbermann still had two years remaining on his contract.

Over the years, Olbermann has become the often-controversial voice of Liberal America on his nightly show. Featuring occasional “Special Comments,” Olbermann often articulated progressives’ frustration with the Right, the Tea Party, with President George W. Bush, and even with President Barack Obama. Countdown also took aim at his counterparts in the Conservative media. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck have been frequent targets on the show’s “Worst Person in the World” segments.

At this point no specific reasons have been given for the seemingly sudden and completely unexpected end to Olbermann’s show. The news has sent Twitter into a frenzy, with most expressing complete shock. Interestingly, and perhaps speaking volumes about the suddenness of this move, MSNBC continues this evening to air promos featuring Olbermann and his show. 

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • M

    I’ll miss the Thurber even if read by a pompous asshole.

  • What I really wonder is how supportive of NPR and PBS liberals would be if limbaugh and the like were the ones spewing their vile brand of crap instead of the scum that have a voice on that network…

  • And just for giggles…here’s the first line in their mission statement…

    Make NPR the most relevant, trusted and consumed news source in the U.S.

    But you’re right, they’re not a news organization!

  • But you’re right…it’s a pity it’s all lost on me…

  • Funny Baritone, but NPR doesn’t agree with you as to what their mission is…

    From NPR’s site…

    NPR was incorporated on February 26, 1970, by 90 forward-thinking charter stations to provide national news programming…. A growing interest in news – local, national and international, led to expanded distribution of NPR programming and growth in audience. The Gulf War in 1990 spawned NPR’s first talk program, Talk of the Nation, and ultimately, the emergence of the public radio news-talk format.

  • nathan rosenberg

    keith olbermann is a voice that needs to be heard — depriving him of his MSNBC venue is a big mistake

  • Andy,

    The government isn’t in the “art” business.
    But government of all kinds have long been involved in supporting the arts one way or another. That you are apparently incapable of either appreciation for or even minimally understanding of such things, your accusation that they broadcast “vile crap” informs us of your lack of knowledge.

    Neither NPR nor PBS are primarily news organizations. While they do offer a good deal of in depth news and reporting, their primary mission is information regarding local, national and international art, culture, economics and social development including education. No other source provides quite the information mix that NPR/PBS can. They have provided a wealth of such information for decades, and this country would be far the poorer for their loss. It’s a pity all that is apparently lost on you.

  • My opinion comes from constantly seeing and hearing clips from a bunch of their so called reporters. Even Fox has had and still has npr reporters on their panels. They’re always on Morning Joe. I don’t read the NY Times either, but I know what a liberal rag it is! Does a person need to read Mein Kampf to know that he doesn’t really want to be a nazi? As if liberals EVER watch O’reilly or Hannity. They listen to what Olbermann had to say. You’ll be lost now!!!

    Everybody heard all about their finances when they fired Williams, a pretty level headed person in my opinion. They still get money from the govt, even if it is only 6%, it’s tax money and why? Yeah yeah, grants and other bullshit like that…subsidies, that we can’t afford and don’t need. The govt doesn’t belong in the “art” business, if that’s what it’s called in order to rape the tax payer.

  • zingzing

    “As far as npr goes, it strikes me odd that they get anything at all…”

    sigh… i shouldn’t even bother. ridiculous.

  • zingzing

    “Any radio network that fires someone for voicing an opinion that went contrary to managements opinions, while not on their network even, can’t possibly voice an informed opinion.”

    also, seeing as how you’re at least a quarter century behind on npr’s funding, and claim never to listen to npr, i’m curious as to how you came around to your opinion. is it “informed,” or is it just something you heard somewhere else and are now repeating without bothering to check it out for yourself?

    by the way, you can check out npr finances here, so next time you can have an actual informed opinion instead of spewing gobbledy-gook.

  • I have a little XM radio that I carry around with me..it’s usually tuned to Classic Vinyl, which is mostly 70’s stuff…another channel called the Pulse is pretty much all new stuff…
    I heard this song on Saturday night Live that I thought was called Forget You, until I looked it up! I like the version I found on line a lot better! It’s called Fuck You! Cee Lo Green. I think he has a unique sound…

    I understand the need for some subsidies, like agriculture and education, but I think a lot of it could be eliminated by making sure that other countries practice fair and open trade.

    As far as npr goes, it strikes me odd that they get anything at all…

  • Not the BBC, I hope.

  • Andy, would that include all the agricultural subsidies and other such financial support given to all kinds of different industries, particularly when there is a security dimension as with food?

    I share your view of most talk radio; so what music are you listening to these days? I keep flipping between fairly old stuff from 20 to 50 years ago and very contemporary stuff.

  • zingzing

    “Any radio network that fires someone for voicing an opinion that went contrary to managements opinions, while not on their network even, can’t possibly voice an informed opinion.”

    that’s not logically consistent…

    “They’re (npr) opinions skew the news to fit their own perceptions.”

    every news organization does that to some degree. but npr is nowhere near the best example of that phenomenon.

    “Anything that has to be subsidized by the govt is NOT successful.”

    npr does not receive direct funds from the government. their member stations sometimes do, although only about 6% of their funding comes from the federal gov’t. the corporation for public broadcasting adds about 10% more funding to the member station budgets. during the 70s and 80s, you were correct about npr member stations being subsidized by the gov’t. but you no longer are correct about that. how does that strike you?

    does it strike you at all?

  • Anything that has to be subsidized by the govt is NOT successful.

    Any radio network that fires someone for voicing an opinion that went contrary to managements opinions, while not on their network even, can’t possibly voice an informed opinion. They’re (npr) opinions skew the news to fit their own perceptions.

    I don’t listen to any talk radio. I enjoy music and my sanity entirely to much to listen to any of the vile crap that comes from any of them…

  • zingzing

    “Are there any successful liberal radio stations in the US?”

    you don’t consider npr and pri to be liberal then? there are hundreds of such stations across the us.

    “first, business won’t invest in the vile crap they spew and 2nd, the people that listen to that crap don’t spend money with the boneheads that advertise there…”

    well, when businesses aren’t encouraged to advertise, they don’t, although some businesses do actually give money. that’s the whole bit of the “sponsored by” thing before “listeners like you.” if you decided to listen to it and actually have an informed opinion about that which you want to shout, you’d know this stuff. it’s not quite advertising in the current sense of the word, but companies get their names mentioned. and “the people that listen to that crap” do spend money with the one “bonehead” that really does advertise there. that’s how it works.

  • roger, I’m a simple guy is all…

  • “But hey, you keep reading my mind…don’t worry, it’s a short read!”

    Don’t denigrate yourself, Andy.

  • Another liberal mind reader…so glad you know what I’m thinking before I do!

    I never do listen to it. I couldn’t tell you what channel it is on XM, if it’s even on XM.

    Lemme guess…they don’t advertise…could be that most businesses wouldn’t give them any money anyway!

    Are there any successful liberal radio stations in the US? None that I’m aware of…I’d say there are a few reasons for that…first, business won’t invest in the vile crap they spew and 2nd, the people that listen to that crap don’t spend money with the boneheads that advertise there…

    But hey, you keep reading my mind…don’t worry, it’s a short read!

  • zingzing

    andy, nice cover. however, it’s a little too late to look truthful. and if you’d ever listen to npr, you’d figure out very quickly why they use public funding. there’s a little thing they don’t do. see if you can figure it out.

  • El Bicho – Have you ever heard of sarcasm? Or do you actually take every comment you read here literally?
    I know that NBC has been taken over by Comcast. It was all over MSNBC when Morning Joe was talking about Olbermann getting fired…yeah yeah, nobody knows if he was fired, left, what the fuck ever!!!
    Try unwadding your panties for a minute and lighten the fuck up!!!!
    As if you have a clue what a fact is anyway?!?!

  • Apparently sanity is relative also….

    Dan – That is most definately one of the best comments I’ve EVER seen!!!!

  • Arch Conservative

    I enjoyed reading post #22 because it was funny.

  • Dan

    I guess those who will miss olbermann as a “sane voice” will now need to rely solely on the voices in their heads.

  • Via podcast I regularly listened to Keith Olbermann. His erudition, eloquence, warm humanitarian approach, genuine indignation and reasonably funded criticism showed me, an average citizen of Bruges (Flanders – Europe), a different side of the US; kinder, more rational, more human. I will really miss him as the sane voice from an increasingly insane society.?Thank you sir Keith.

  • @18

    Kinda low blow, don’t you think? But I suppose you’re just doing your job telling Alan in no uncertain term that his logic stinks.

    I really like your form of argument. Got to try it myself.

  • Ruvy

    Another overpaid “gliberal” bites the dust. Boo hoo, sniff, sob!!!

  • Alan, “Effective December 16, 2010, Alan Kurtz is no longer writing for or commenting at Blogcritics” is clearly over. You might want to change that. Sorry you found my logic a bit off. Coca-Cola did something like it when they introduced “New” Coke.

    Has anybody ever heard of the term “time out”?

    You should read James Thurber. You might learn something.

  • zingzing

    if i were olbermann, i’d land on my ass in fucking vacation-land. stay there for a while, i would. take some time off, get some perspective. he’s smart enough to be better than his show was, i think. he was the liberal attack dog, and nothing more. we don’t need an anti-fox. that shit’s for idiots.

  • Alan, not sure at whom your comment was aimed. As to my comment (#14) I was being incredulous myself. That was the point of the Cronkite/Murrow line, and, of couse, the well tuned “DUH.”

    I do NOT believe that the Olbermann’s departure was a “business” decision for either party. I don’t think it was ideological either. It was, IMO, personal. Olbermann and the NBC powers that be have been rubbing each other the wrong way for some time. Olbermann does have an outsized ego, there’s no question of that. It was, perhaps, inevitable. This is a scene that Olbermann has played out more than once; oft-times with much greater bluster and fanfare. I presume he will land somewhere.


  • Great revelation? That Keith is in show business and that MSNBC is a business!

    Sorry, I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, but am embarrassed to admit that I fail to follow your logic. As I understand it, Mr. Olbermann was until yesterday the host of MSNBC’s top-rated program and therefore the network’s single biggest moneymaker. Why, then, would the executives fire him strictly on business grounds? That seems counterintuitive, if you’ll forgive my saying so.

  • RE#12. Great revelation! It’s ALL a business. When the venerable Murrow and Cronkite were holding court, it was a business. DUH!

    As to Arch’s comment – The good people at FOX rarely have anyone taking questions except those who have high level wing nut pedigrees. Although, they do occasionally bring in semi-literate people they feel confident they can humiliate, kinda like the old Joe Pine shows.

  • El Bicho

    “MSNBC will be looking for NPR type funding soon”

    There being taken over by Comcast, but don’t let the facts factor into your opinion

  • The big picture is that Keith is in show business.

    It is easy for audience to focus on the shiny bits because that is the show. Few look at the business, not “hobby.” MSNBC is a business.

    For that matter, so is Keith [a business]. He is a face, the shiny bit. There are agent, accounting, legal, public relations, fitness, grooming, clothing and coaching businesses behind him.

    There is precedent, though. Jack Paar quit his show twice.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    For anyone who wants to watch the full episode, click HERE [Requires Quicktime]

    You can download it as well (on a PC) by right-clicking the link and choosing “Save Link As” to your desktop or wherever you prefer.

  • Arch Conservative

    I always hear liberals talking about Olbermann’s intelligience. If he’s so friggin intelligient how come he never had anything but a steady stream of yes men on his show. He never debated anyone. He only had leftist hacks from newsweek and NYT on to agree with him.

    Seiing as this douchebag was the best thing MSNBC had going I predict the network will soon follow in the foosteps of Air America.

  • I’m more of a libertarian but count me among the cacklers!!!
    I guess MSNBC is getting tired of being nothing more than the antiFox network. It seemed to me that every time I tuned in to Countdown Olbermann was whining about somebody at Fox. It was really quite amusing!
    MSNBC will be looking for NPR type funding soon…for some reason, there aren’t enough people in the world that want to listen to the kind of SHIT they produce!

  • Gordon Hauptfleisch

    Olbermann: Worst Fired Person in the World

  • El Bicho

    Charles, you apparently don’t know what the 1st amendment smells like. You’ll fit right in around here.

  • Olbermann has been fired from or left other positions over the years. He is likely a difficult person with which to deal. His ego is no small thing.

    The seeds of this parting may have been planted when NBC suspended him for 3 days over those campaign contributions he made just prior to the mid-term elections.

    In retrospect the only odd thing I can point to is that normally Olbermann would pass off from his show to Rachael Maddow with a bit of back and forth between he and her, but I remember noting that that didn’t happen during this past week. He would end his show; there would be a break, and then Maddow would come on.

    I liked Olbermann despite his bombastic nature because he is intelligent, entertaining and, IMO, more often than not, I agree with him. The Left has lost – for a time at least – another voice. It’s hard to imagine where else he could land.

    I’ve no doubt that many on the right are cackling with glee. I for one, though, will miss him; miss his perspectives, miss his energy, his humor, and miss his passion.


  • Charles

    This sudden end smells of first amendment rights being violated and Keith not bowing to that pressure… News at 11

  • Ooops, click on my name.

  • We have a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the info on Keith’s departure. Everyone is freaked out about it.

  • No one really knows anything. And I think Daily Kos has the video of the final moments of the show. People are pretty shocked and Anderson Cooper is reporting it as “Breaking News” and discussing right now with several media folk.

  • What is this all about? I wanted to TiVo it, but by the time I heard, the episode had already aired, and its not schedule to repeat at this time, though my TiVo is still showing episodes all next week. My phone has been abuzz with tweets and text about Olberman. Any chance on a better explanation anytime soon?