Keith Olbermann Opens Up About Leaving MSNBC

By Alex Weprin Comment

Former MSNBC host and soon-to-be Current TV host Keith Olbermann is back in the spotlight, with a cover story in this week’s Hollywood Reporter, along with a feature in Rolling Stone.

For the first time, Olbermnann talks about leaving MSNBC, while also promoting his new show on Current. Olbermann also announced that another former MSNBCer, David Shuster, will be serving as the primary fill-in anchor for “Countdown” on Current.

Olbermann tells the Reporter that he has not spoken to Rachel Maddow since he left MSNBC, and that when he began his last show in January, he was not even certain it would be his last:

In fact, when Olbermann went on air at 8 p.m. EST on January 21, neither he nor his staff knew this was his final broadcast. Olbermann had prepared two endings for the show; one with two readings from James Thurber, and another with a Thurber reading and his farewell to viewers. “As far as anybody knew,” says Olbermann. “I was doing the two Thurber stories.” Meanwhile, huddled off camera at Countdown’s Studio 1A Up, above the Today show’s Studio 1A, were Olbermann’s representatives (two ICM agents and Michael Price, Olbermann’s manager) and MSNBC president Phil Griffin and an NBC lawyer. At the 8:30 p.m. break, the parties agreed to release Olbermann out of his contract and he told his staff for the first time.

Olbermann also talks about his payday (THR cites a source that says it is $10 mil a year, in addition to the money MSNBC still owes him, as well as equity in Current) and a meeting he had with CBS CEO Les Moonves. He  also says that contributors like Michael Moore and Markos Moulitsas will be compensated in “untraditional ways.”

In the Rolling Stone interview, Olbermann pulls out a note Tom Brokaw sent to him, a note he received a few months before the former “NBC Nightly News” anchor criticized him:

Let me read this to you. You can see how old it is—it already came apart. March 5th, 2008, Wednesday morning, 9:45 a.m. “Keith, game ball goes to you for last night. I’ve been at this for 40 years and have a full appreciation for how tricky it is to go from commentator to anchor, get the news out, manage the many egos, make sure lots of different points of view are represented, maintain your own place in the proceedings, you did it all splendidly.” You can see the name of who sent that [Tom Brokaw].

So there you have it. I’ve never shared that with anybody before. Now you have a private comment that he didn’t seem to remember when he made his public comment five months later.

He also talks about how the deal with Current co-founder Al Gore came to be, and his biggest regrets at MSNBC.