The announcement was totally unexpected. MSNBC liberal commentator Keith Olbermann, who has been very supportive of LGBT rights – including promoting Rachal Maddow – told his Friday evening audience that this would be his last show. The Wrap has this statement from MSNBC:
“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.”
According to several senior network executives, NBC’s management had been close to firing Mr. Olbermann on previous occasions, most recently in November after he revealed that he had made donations to several Democratic candidates in 2010 — one of them, coincidentally, was Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who has been the subject of many of his recent shows after being shot in an assassination attempt.
The top MSNBC executive, Phil Griffin, said the donations had violated NBC News standards and ordered Mr. Olbermann suspended. His fans responded with a petition to reinstate him that attracted over 250,000 signatures. Mr. Olbermann returned two days later. In his response he said the rules on donations had been “inconsistently applied.”
A knowledgeable official said the move had nothing to do with Comcast taking control of NBC next week, although the cable giant was informed when it received final federal approval for the purchase that Olbermann would be leaving the cable channel. This official described the dramatic divorce—Olbermann was about halfway through a four-year, $30 million contract—as mutual.
Olbermann, who quit MSNBC once before—in 1998, ripping his bosses in the process—almost single-handedly revived the network by leading it on a leftward march and aggressively attacking the rival operation he called Fox Noise. But his relations with top NBC and MSNBC executives sharply deteriorated when he was suspended for making donations to Democratic candidates, and they began to talk about how the channel was now on solid enough footing to survive without him.