Keith Olbermann leaves MSNBC, speculation follows

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann said he has taped his last "Countdown" down.

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Monday, January 24, 2011; 6:15 PM

Host Keith Olbermann has left MSNBC. As Paul Farhi reported:

Keith Olbermann, the combative left-leaning anchor of MSNBC's most popular program, "Countdown," surprised viewers Friday night by announcing that the show would be his last. Olbermann said he had been told by MSNBC that the cable network was ending his contract.

Sources at the network wouldn't discuss Olbermann's departure in detail Friday, but they shot down speculation that it was related to the pending takeover of MSNBC's parent company, NBC Universal, by Comcast, the cable and Internet giant. The takeover was approved this week by federal regulators.

In a farewell statement on the air, Olbermann offered gratitude to his viewers and thanked a series of people, including the late NBC anchor Tim Russert. He did not mention Griffin or NBC News President Steve Capus.

MSNBC said Lawrence O'Donnell, who formerly filled in for Olbermann and began hosting his own show on MSNBC at 10 p.m. in September, will take over Olbermann's 8 p.m. slot. O'Donnell will be replaced by Ed Schultz's "Ed Show" at 10. Schultz's vacated 6 p.m. slot will be filled by Cenk Uygur, who has hosted a radio and Web show called "The Young Turks."

Jennifer Rubin offered a take from the conservative point of view on Olbermann's departure:

It is remarkable, actually, that he lasted as long as he did.

For starters, the virulent anti-Bush sentiment that he championed, and around which the left-leaning network built its image, has played out. The country doesn't hate George W. Bush. In fact, undiluted pro-Obama sentiment has played itself out. Like 1970's wide ties, Olbermann is out of sync with the current political ethos. When Obama is moving to the center and political elites -- minus Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) - are making a fuss over civility, MSNBC is suddenly so yesterday. Actually, so 2006.

Greg Sargent offered one from the left:

Olbermann's departure signals no change of direction at MSNBC? As Keach Hagey notes, one of the odder things about his departure is that it comes just as MSNBC is "doubling-down on an attempt to build a loyal audience with a left-leaning programming strategy."

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