Keith Olbermann has been fired from Current TV, the network announced Friday.
“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,” network co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt wrote in a letter to viewers. “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.”
Olberman’s dismissal comes less than a year after he was hired by the network, following his exit from MSNBC 14 months ago.
“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” will be replaced starting Friday night by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whose CNN show was canceled last summer. Spitzer resigned from office in 2008 after he was implicated in a prostitution scandal. His show will be titled “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.”
“We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Gov. Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis,” the letter from Gore and Hyatt said.
The news comes after months of reported infighting between the famously difficult Olbermann and network bosses, which came to a public head in January after he apparently refused to host Current’s special election coverage amid ongoing production problems. At the time, Gore dismissed the dust-up, saying Olbermann was “fine” and that there were no plans for him to leave the network.
According to the New York Times, which first reported Olbermann’s firing, the decision to terminate his five-year, $50 million contract was unanimous among the network’s senior executives:
In January and February, Mr. Olbermann continued to miss many days of work, as he himself acknowledged on his popular Twitter feed. He attributed some of his absences to throat problems.
But Current considered some of those absences to be breaches of his contract, labeling them “unauthorized absences,” according to a person familiar with the matter, who insisted on anonymity because the executives involved had agreed not to comment on the record.
For instance, he took a vacation day on March 5, on the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries, despite a warning from Current that it would constitute a breach of contract, according to the person.
On that same day, Mr. Hyatt stood by Mr. Olbermann in an interview with The New York Times, calling him unquestionably “the big gun in our line-up.” Referring to Current, Mr. Hyatt said, “it’s all on top of his shoulders.”
But behind the scenes, tensions were mounting and Current was adding new programs, in part as a hedge against the possibility of Mr. Olbermann’s departure. The interview with Mr. Hyatt came on the day that Current announced two simulcasts of morning radio shows, effectively tripling its hours of live political talk each weekday.
Following Current’s announcement, Olbermann released a blistering statement on Twitter, calling the claims against him “untrue” and vowing to take legal action against the network.
“In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out,” Olbermann said. “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.”