'I screwed up,' Olbermann says of working at Current

April 3, 2012 at 9:54 PM ET

Jeffrey R. Staab / CBS /

Days after Keith Olbermann's sudden ouster from Current TV, the political commentator addressed his departure from the cable network with David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show" on Tuesday.

“I screwed up," Olbermann said after Letterman asked whether Current TV and former president Al Gore knew what they were doing. “I screwed up really big on this. Let’s just start there. I thought we could do this. It’s my fault that it didn’t succeed in the sense that I didn’t think the whole thing through."

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Olbermann continued: "I didn’t say, ‘You know, if you buy a $10 million chandelier, you should have a house to put it in. Just walking around with a $10 million chandelier isn’t going to do anybody a lot of good, and it’s not going to do any good to the chandelier.' And then it turned out we didn’t have a lot to put the house on to put the chandelier in, or a building permit, and I, I should have known that. And it is, it is my fault at heart.” 

“You’re the chandelier?” Letterman asked. “I’m the chandelier,” Olbermann answered. “You are always pointing out how big my head is, so I think it’s a suitable analogy.”

The outspoken personality elaborated further, bringing up his past appearance last September on "Late Show" when he did the Top 10 list on Letterman's show poking fun at his gig at Current TV. It featured Olberman reading No. 2: “Better watch now because things could go wrong in a hurry.” “We made that up the next day,” Olbermann said after giving Letterman a button with that exact saying, “because as I was saying, as you just said, if you know it’s not going to work or you suspect it’s not going to work, it doesn’t mean you stop trying to make it work.”

When Letterman asked whether Olbermann would see all of his contract money, Olbermann -- who threatened legal action against Current TV -- was frank.

“Well, up to last Thursday I got my money,” he said, before alluding to troubles early on in his stint. “The nice judge will decide whether or not I get more of my money. But quite seriously, you know, in that situation, what you’re thinking is, 'Oh, Lord, this is probably going to hit the water at some point', but what do you do? You have – you could bail out and say 'I’m getting out of this immediately', and trust me, I was thinking about that as early as like last July. We’d been on the air about 10 days and they fired the guy who knew what he was doing who I worked for and I went, 'Uh-oh'."

"But I went home and just sort of had a conversation with myself and said, ‘Look, these – the two important groups that are more important than what I do about myself – the audience who went to struggle to find where the network was and join me, and, most importantly, the staff'," he said, adding later, "I’m so proud of [the staff] because the show editorially was never better, but I let them down because the thing didn’t continue.”

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Olbermann and Letterman also discussed the matter of Olbermann's unhappiness over car service issues.

"The story is that we changed car services a couple times. I got rid of them. Maybe there were like eight different car services," Olbermann told Letterman after the talk show host asked about a story that said he was upset about how the transportation was handled at his former employer. "The problem that's left out of that side of the story was that in at least one occasion, the car service stopped coming to get me because the bill hadn't been paid. And I know that makes me Attila the Hun because the bill wasn't paid."

And according to Olbermann, there were issues on the set of his show: "The lights went out a couple times during the show." The possible reason? "I don't think we paid the electric bill," Olbermann said, adding, "I come back from a commercial break and they started to get brown. They started to get dimmer and I thought, 'Here it comes. Mom always said this would happen.' "

Earlier in the interview, the two traded some good-natured jokes about the entire ordeal.

“How long ago did you leave MSNBC to go to the Current TV show?” Letterman asked. “It’s over a year, right?”

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“I don’t know,” Olbermann said. “I have to consult my notes because after a certain point, I can’t keep track of where I’m working. I don't have any idea." Letterman then proceeded to give Olbermann an "adjustable business card."

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Current terminated its contract with Olbermann last Friday approximately one year after he joined the network. Eliot Spitzer replaced him with a new program, "Viewpoint With Eliot Spitzer," that evening, which made no mention of Olbermann. Network founders Gore and Joel Hyatt issued a letter Friday announcing the parting of ways.

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