Keith Olbermann’s Countdown returned to the air Wednesday night after it was preempted Tuesday for live coverage of the Iowa caucuses. But the story of his absence isn’t ready to die, and the media are wondering if Olbermann’s most recent “clash” with his bosses means his days at Current TV are “numbered.”
After learning that Olbermann and his staff thought they were putting on a show in New York Tuesday, Current TV president David Bohrman sent an internal memo insisting Olbermann had been asked to headline its primary coverage but declined. Olbermann, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday, said, “I was not given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable condition. They know it and we know it. Telling half the story is wrong.”
The New York Times attributed Olbermann’s passing on the hosting of primary specials as “frustration about technical difficulties that have plagued his 8 p.m. program.” Through THR, Olbermann issued a statement saying he considers Countdown‘s run on the underdog Current the program’s “best editions” — noting his team was the first to cover the Occupy movement and continue to do on a regular basis — and added, “The studio lights might go off, but the editorial illumination is better than ever.” (On Dec. 30, Olbermann tweeted that he’d informed the writer of that piece that “anybody who describes my disposition towards Current as “disgruntled” is either uninformed, working from a personal agenda, wrong — or all of the above.”)
Where does that leave Olbermann now? A rep for Current TV tells EW the network has asked him to headline its coverage of the Jan. 10 Republican primary in New Hampshire and is “hopeful he’ll do it,” though he has yet to give an answer. Olbermann’s manager, Michael Price, has told the Times he does expect Olbermann to stay at the channel, which began airing Countdown last June. Olbermann has taken to Twitter to comment on the media storm surrounding the situation, saying nothing makes him laugh more than reading about himself. He’s ridiculed one online publication for using a photo of him from the ninth grade to art a gallery of his history of “disputes,” and again took a jab at the writer of the Times article arguing that “2 of the 3 networks [ESPN, Fox and MSNBC] he claims I ‘estranged’ myself from later asked me to rejoin them.” When NYT assistant managing editor Jim Roberts tweeted, “Is Current TV too low-rent for @KeithOlbermann?” with a link to the piece, Olbermann response included the words, “not really, no.”
Meanwhile, Olbermann is also engaging Twitter users who’ve called him a “loser” or worse: “Was that avatar a choice or did you lose a fistfight?” he responded to one. “Another moron speaks. You can kiss my ass too,” and “Your tweet would interest me if I had any idea who you were,” were other retorts. At least one follower (@weeddude) tried to be supportive. “Time to launch your own online network. Take views directly to the people. They will listen and watch.” Olbermann’s response: “Doesn’t work. Ask Beck.”
So we know that’s one move he won’t be making any time soon.