Current TV fires Keith Olbermann
Current TV has fired Keith Olbermann, a network spokeswoman told TheWrap.
The controversial news host has been at the fledgling cable channel for less than a year, but the relationship has been rocky since the get-go and individuals on both sides of the dispute accused the other of breaching contract.
Olbermann will not get the opportunity to sign off on air, as Eliot Spitzer will replace him starting Friday night, the network announced.
Current informed Olbermann of his dismissal Thursday morning, and in a note on Friday Current co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt made their displeasure clear.
Olbermann quickly responded on Twitter, threatening legal action.
He also apologized to viewers, but said he had to end his show after he was unable to resolve his differences with Current executives.
"I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV. Editorially, Countdown had never been better," Olbermann tweeted.
"But for more than a year I have been imploring @AlGore and @JoelHyatt to resolve our issues internally," he added, saying that they had instead publicized their disputes.
Olbermann's attorney Patricia Glaser confirmed to TheWrap that they will sue Current.
"They made a bad decision. They can expect a bad result," Glaser said, adding that they would be filing a complaint next week.
According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, that dispute was part of a larger chain of errors by Olbermann, who was fired for a "serial, material breach of his contract" such as the failure to show up to work, sabotaging the network and attacking Current.
That individual said Olbermann missed 19 of 41 working days during January and February and asked for vacation the night before Super Tuesday, giving the network "strong legal foundation" for dismissing Olbermann.
Glaser descibed said claims as "hogwash."
Olbermann's contract not only paid him a hefty sum, but gave him equity in the network. He also held the title of Current's Chief News Officer.
This was but the very messy culmination of a lengthy back and forth between Current and its star, who has a long history of butting heads with his bosses, having previously tangled with them at ESPN and MSNBC.
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Olbermann got into a contretemps with Current over his role during Republican primary election coverage last December. Back in early January, executives at Current TV said that relations – especially those with Current CEO Joel Hyatt – were at a breaking point after deteriorating over several months.
Olbermann declined to cover the Iowa caucus when he learned he would have to share the hosting chair with others.
His show on Current was hailed as the centerpiece of its transition towards progressive programming, and Current has added two prime time evening shows and two morning shows to its lineup.
"Countdown" will now be replaced by "Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer."
Spitzer, the former governor of New York, has minimal broadcast experience, having previously hosted the low-rated CNN show "In The Arena."
Here is the full memo from the Current website:
To the Viewers of Current:
We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.
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.
We are moving ahead by honoring Current's values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily -- especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.
As we move toward this summer's political conventions and the general election in the fall, Current is making significant new additions to our broadcasts. We have just debuted six hours of new programming each weekday with Bill Press ("Full Court Press, at 6 am ET/3 am PT) and Stephanie Miller ("Talking Liberally," at 9 am ET/6 pm PT).
We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year.
We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Governor Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.
All of these additions to Current's lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal -- thegoal that has always been central to Current's mission: To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voice is too seldom heard. We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.
Al Gore & Joel Hyatt
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