Keith Olbermann Fired from MSNBC

Keith Olbermann, perhaps the most vitriolic left wing voice on American television, has had his contact abruptly terminated by MSNBC.

Commentator Keith Olbermann signed off his msnbc cable television show Friday night after nearly eight years.

“Msnbc and Keith Olbermann have ended our contract,” Phil Griffin, president of msnbc, said Friday.

“Msnbc thanks Keith for his integral role in msnbc’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” Griffin said.

Olbermann announced his departure before closing his show with a reading from a James Thurber novel, a Friday night tradition.

Recounting his move to msnbc after departing ESPN, Olbermann said, “I was supposed to fill in for the late Jerry Nachman for exactly three days. 49 days later there was a four-year contract for me to return to this nightly 8 PM time slot which I had fled four years earlier.”

He noted that the show gradually established an anti-establishment position.

“The program grew thanks entirely to your support with great rewards for me and I hope for you,” Olbermann told viewers.

“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 and if I may use the word insistence ultimately required that I keep going.”

“Starting Monday, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” will move to 8 p.m. ET/PT and “The Ed Show,” hosted by Ed Schultz, will move to 10 p.m. ET/PT on msnbc, Griffin said. “The Rachel Maddow Show” will continue to air live at 9 p.m. ET/PT.


MSNBC issued a statement that it had ended its contract with the controversial host, with no further explanation. Olbermann hosted the network’s most popular show, but his combative liberal opinions often made him a target of critics.

Olbermann did not explain why he was leaving.

“MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” the network said.

A spokesman said Phil Griffin, MSNBC’s president, would not comment on Olbermann’s exit. Spokesman Jeremy Gaines would say only that the acquistion of NBC Universal by Comcast, which received regulatory approval this week, had nothing to do with the decision.

This is truly surprising, in that Olbermann’s show was easily the network’s most popular.  Granting that this is a distinction on par with being the thinnest kid at fat camp, it’s unusual for a network to abruptly cancel the contract of their highest profile, highest rated star.

FILED UNDER: Media, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. G.A.Phillips says:

    Couldn’t have happened to a worse person…………..

  2. anjin-san says:

    It will be interesting to hear the backstory on this one.

  3. Davebo says:

    This is truly surprising, in that Olbermann’s show was easily the network’s most popular.

    So was Phil Donahue’s when MSNBC cancelled it.

    Seems to be a trend. Draw in viewers all you want, but don’t piss off the entities we actually answer to.

  4. JM says:

    Wrong move. I am sorry MSNBC has made this decision. Is Rachael next?

  5. reid says:

    Olbermann isn’t as controversial as has often been portrayed. He was occasionally bombastic and has a hefty ego, but he’s far from the loon that Beck is, for example.

  6. J. Stephen says:

    Just might a certain merger between a major network and a large cable company have something to do with this…?

    Sadly, moving Ed Shultz to his time slot is hardly going to improve the quality of MSNBC’s prime time programming, or its ratings.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Olbermann was never a loon. He never sank half as far as the Fox equivalents. He continued to live in reality.

    That said, liberals are not rage-o-holics. We don’t live very well on a constant diet of anger. When Olbermann started he was a liberal, but he was a witty, intelligent one with a very tight, well-constructed show.

    Over time he became angrier, more scornful and less witty and urbane. I long ago stopped listening to his “Special Comments.” He actually managed to make me feel defensive of Mr. Bush on occasion. And that’s just not right.

    And in the last few months in particular he’s done the unforgivable: he’s started cherry-picking facts and letting go of the journalistic standards he had managed to hold onto. Again: that’s not for us, that’s for conservatives.

    A couple years ago I’d have been upset. Now? Meh.

  8. NadePaulKuciGravMcKi says:

    Keith Olbermann
    controlled media
    9/11 censorship
    joe lieberman
    AIPAC first

  9. Ron Slater says:

    Could this be the begining of the end for MSNBC?…One can only hope!!

  10. PD Shaw says:

    Trying to parse through the statements, it’s not clear to me that he was fired; he might have just decided to leave? Is that naive?

  11. sam says:

    “Sadly, moving Ed Shultz to his time slot is hardly going to improve the quality of MSNBC’s prime time programming, or its ratings.”

    I won’t watch. Ed bores the crap out of me.

  12. Jack Meoff says:

    Hey Keith, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!


    And by the way, my name says it all!

  13. john personna says:

    The vibe I get is that Olbermann would be a pain in the neck for MSNBC management.

    Never underestimate personal relations in the boardroom.

  14. tps says:

    It’ll never happen but I wish Keith would get a weekend gig on Foxnews. Not just that he can be a good interviewer sometimes but just to see some heads explode. Right and left.

  15. jwest says:

    I’m with Comcast on this one.

    “……..sources familiar with the acquisition report that Olbermann refused to comply with certain provisions of the existing contract. A spokesman for Comcast indicated that the new direction of MSNBC would exploit the growing niche of combining entertainment with opinion journalism.
    “Although we respect Mr. Olbermann’s concerns, the need to bring a softer image to the program in order to attract more of the important 18 through 39 demographic was the sole reason for the costume requirement on the new Countdown show. Data from focus groups has shown increased interest when political commentary is delivered by a host in a chicken costume.”

    Whether Olbermann was objecting to the chicken suit specifically or the “Cluck-Cluck dance” proposed to precede breaking news, Comcast is the one calling the shots. It’s a business and they need to get the ratings up.

  16. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    It seems the free market still works after all.

  17. André Kenji says:

    The point of the MSNBC model is that it is pretty cheap. Paying people to do “analysis” on the air is pretty cheaper than keeping correspondents in Abu Dhabi or in Hong Kong, like BBC and CNN does. So, even if they don´t have stellar ratings they are profitable.

    Sure that you have another problem: there is no way that a REAL news network(Not an infotainment channel) could get ratings in a Fox News level. The thinking that most cable news should have ratings at that level is what explains why Cable News in the US are so poor compared to international channels.

  18. Michael says:

    Should we be screaming about his 1st Amendment rights being violated now?

  19. J. Stephen says:

    @michael reynolds, I think you summed it up very, very well. Keith had become petty in the past 12-18 months.

  20. Mike says:

    If a man is a prick he’ll screw himself. Looks like Kieth finally succeed.

  21. ed monet says:

    News Flash for Libs:The Free market system works without Government sticking its nose in and ruining the product. When a product sucks, nobody wants it and then it fails only to be replaced with another that tries to compete. In essence; liberal, pious. sanctimonious, HATE filled, dribble doesn’t sell. Audios Hater