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TV Column
Posted at 05:12 PM ET, 03/30/2012

Current TV becomes latest network to end stormy relationship with Keith Olbermann

Current TV becomes the latest television network to sever a stormy relationship with famously fractious Keith Olbermann.

Current TV founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt said in a letter to viewers that they decided to cut bait because the relationship no longer represented “the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers.”

Olbermann’s primetime show, “Countdown” has been replaced, effective immediately, by one anchored by former New York Governor/former CNN show anchor Eliot Spitzer.

Olbermann issued his own statement Friday, “It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently.”

Olbermann’s humdinger of a statement continues:

“In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.”

Olbermann had been back on Current TV, if unhappily, since a wild week of public brawling back in January. The feuding erupted Jan 3. slightly less than a year after after Olbermann joined the network for what was to have been a five-year deal. That day, Current TV pre-empted “Countdown,” with coverage of the Iowa caucuses — the important first vote of the GOP primary season.

“Keith was asked to be the sole anchor and executive producer of our primary and caucus coverage. He declined,” Current TV president David Bohrman said in a memo to staffers that day. “We then made other plans to have our 4 hours of prime time election coverage [Jan. 3] hosted by Al Gore, Jennifer Granholm, and The Young Turks. We tried several times to have Keith participate in our coverage, including being the lead anchor for the 8p hour tonight, incorporated with our election group in the Los Angeles studio and produced in the LA control room.”

Olbermann fired back with a statement to trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, in which he insisted he was “never given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable conditions. They know it and we know it.”

Speculation seemed to fall into two camps:

*The “Current TV is too low-rent for Olbermann” camp. His New York-based show has been plagued by tech problems, satellite feeds dropped out, and in early December a blown fuse caused the lights to go out while Olbermann was on the air in early December.

*The Hello? They hired Keith Obermann” camp. No explanation required.

But, after a week-long spitting match, Olbermann issued a statement saying he was pleased that he would be running the election coverage on Current, following the New Hampshire primary.

Spitzer, whose CNN show, “In The Arena,” was canceled for pulling in the kind of numbers Current TV would kill for, is replacing Olbermann immediately.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to host a show on Current TV that will provide insight into and analysis of the critical issues on the minds of Americans today,” Spitzer said in Friday’s announcement.

Current TV is not the only network that’s learned they’d need to fasten their seatbelts when in business with Olbermann, because it was going to be a bumpy ride.

He feuded with ESPN, where he anchored “SportsCenter” for years, followed by a contentious relationship with MSNBC, which he dumped for Current TV.

Back in February of 2011 when Current TV announced it was getting into bed with Olbermann, Hyatt hailed the hire as “the best investment that Current has ever made.”

Here’s Current TV’s full statement:

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.

Sincerely,

Al Gore & Joel Hyatt

Current’s Founders 

and here’s Keith Olbermann’s full statement:

I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.

Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.

It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. http://nyti.ms/HueZsa

In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

By  |  05:12 PM ET, 03/30/2012

Tags:  Current TV, Keith Olbermann

 
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