Here we go.
Last night at the Wall Street Journal‘s All Things Digital conference, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch appeared for a wide-ranging discussion that touched on politics (he thinks Obama can win in it all), energy policy (drilling in Alaska is a good thing) and the newspaper industry (it’s bad, except for the WSJ, of course).
He was also asked about a certain anchor on another network. The WSJ’s Kara Swisher asked: “Would you hire Keith Olbermann?”
“No, I fired him five years ago…He’s crazy.”
Olbermann’s response to the comment, and some background (according to Keith), after the jump…
Firstly, the quote is, according to AlleyInsider.Com, “he was crazy.”
I appreciate the difference and apparently Rupert does, too.
But this is actually quite a news story (for a very small group of people who worked with me at Fox Sports, and people who covered tv at the time). I had already been the host of Fox’s Baseball coverage for two years when, in April of 2001, I got a tip from outside NewsCorp that Rupert was unofficially shopping the Los Angeles Dodgers, which Murdoch at that time owned. I confirmed the story with an excellent baseball source, then immediately went up my chain of command at Fox. They all said “if it’s solid, go with it,” but I suggested we get the corporate viewpoint on this, so they put me in touch with Rupert’s PR guy in New York.
I said, in short, this is your candy store, if you don’t want me to run this, I’m not running it, and I’m not leaking it, but at minimum you should know the story’s out there. And the guy’s answer was, thanks for thinking of us, here’s our official denial, please report it and whatever your sources tell you, just please make clear that none of your sources are within the company (baseball was, and is, extremely touchy about when a team is, or isn’t, “officially” for sale, and woe betide the owner who makes a deal before the “officially” kicks in).
So I ran the Dodgers-Are-Unofficially-For-Sale story (with the “the sources aren’t NewsCorp” caveat taking almost as long as the story itself) and everything was swell. And two weeks later, the day before the annual Fox Baseball Meeting convened in L.A., my agent was suddenly notified “he’s no longer the host for baseball.” This is a week or so before our first game of the week. A day or two later it was “come in and clean out your office.”
And a day or so after that I got a call from a friend who’s a prominent tv sports beat writer, and he says, I’m hearing Rupert Murdoch just found out about your Dodgers story and personally ordered you fired.
It had never crossed my mind that the two things weren’t coincidental. I never could prove that that’s what happened, but nor did I ever get any other answer as to why they took me off, considering that in two years we’d been twice nominated for the Emmy for best studio sportscast — and won once (with our competition being all the ESPN shows and hour-long NFL extravaganzas). Months later, the guy who ran sports, David Hill, told another tv sports beat writer that he still thought I was the best sportscaster in the world.
So: I appreciate Rupert finally owning up to firing me because I followed his rules.
And as to the “crazy” part, he had to pay me $800,000 for the rest of 2001, and lord knows how many tens of millions I’ve helped MSNBC take out of his pocket ever since — so: who’s crazy?
&mdash Keith Olbermann