Keith Olbermann is a prickly personality at the best of times. He is bombastic and outspoken. He has a huge ego. He's never been able to hold onto a job in television for more than a few years, probably because of those attributes. He stuck with MSNBC and MSNBC stuck with him for about as long as he's ever stayed anywhere.
His nightly news and commentary show Countdown has been hugely popular among liberals. When he announced on camera during his show yesterday that that would be the last Countdown, it was a massive shock to his rabid fans and they reacted...rabidly. They blamed MSNBC. They blamed Comcast which is about to take over NBC. They blamed everybody except Keith. I certainly don't have any more information about how the split came about than what I've read in the newspapers and online today, but I suspect the whole thing is a bit more complicated than his most passionate fans may be willing to admit.
Let me state up front that I'm not one of his passionate fans. He lost me as a fan in 2008 during the Democratic presidential primaries when he was rude and dismissive concerning the candidacy of Hillary Clinton whom I supported. Every time her campaign was mentioned, Keith would give one of his exaggerated sighs and wonder aloud when she would be getting out of the race. On the other hand, he absolutely glowed every time he mentioned the name of Barack Obama. (Of course, since Obama was elected, he hasn't done anything right according to Keith!) I stopped watching Countdown back then because I was so offended by his behavior and I only started up again after the election. But since that time, I've had a bit of a jaundiced view of Olbermann and I take his hyperbole with a grain of salt.
It's been obvious for some time that he had lost his enthusiasm for the show. Maybe it had something to do with his father's long illness and finally his death. During that period, Olbermann was absent from his show for much of the time, often for months at a time, but NBC allowed those absences and apparently supported him through a difficult period. But since he came back full time, it has seemed to me that he just never got his groove back and he was often absent, with guest hosts filling in for him. And now, finally, the end has come and he will be able to move on to other things.
Those other things won't include being on TV for a while because, apparently, part of the settlement with NBC precludes television appearances for a unknown period of time. But it won't stop him from doing other types of media such as radio or the Internet or any type of print media. One story that I read speculated that he might be interested in starting his own media enterprise - something similar to Huffington Post. Whatever he decides to do, I'm sure his loyal fans will follow. And I probably will, too.
So what's the verdict? Did MSNBC KO their biggest star? Did Olbermann deliberately KO himself because he wanted out? Or is it that he simply couldn't help himself? Guess we'll just have to wait for the book, but when it comes, I think we would be wise to take it, too, with a grain of salt.