“Countdown” host’s sudden departure shocks colleagues, rivals
Keith Olbermann's abrupt exit from MSNBC on Friday sent shockwaves throughout the navel-gazing cable news business.
At rival CNN, Anderson Cooper devoted the first 20 minutes of his 10:00 p.m. (ET) show Friday night to Olbermann's departure.
Cooper even teased an Olbermann-focused show on Twitter, replete with his own idle speculation:
Comcast deal is approved. Jeff Zucker leaves. #keitholbermann gets fired. Coincidence? Find out #ac360 at 10p
“One of the most controversial voices on television not to mention a fierce competitor and pretty fair talent in both news and sports is out of a job,” Cooper said at the top of his show. “[Olbermann was] out the door so suddenly few there apparently didn’t get the memo in time. The network was running promotional spots with his face on [them] an hour after he signed off for the last time tonight.”
CNN wasn't the only cable network trying to make sense of Olbermann and MSNBC’s bitter divorce.
Olbermann protégé Rachel Maddow, who was appearing as a scheduled guest on HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher" Friday, looked shocked as well. "It's been a big day at MSNBC," Maddow said, "or at least it's been a big 15 minutes."
After Maddow explained to Maher that "Keith and the company made a mutual decision that 'Countdown' is done," Maher interjected: "That's always bull—-."
Maddow, though, insisted she knew "very little about it."
"All I know is that it was between Keith and the company and didn't involve the rest of us and he was really gracious and nice when he left."
"Stop organizing life around the people who don't get the joke," Maher added later, referring to the brief hiatus of Olbermann's "Worst Persons" segment. "F— them if they don't get the joke.
Maddow's 9 p.m. fill-in Chris Hayes took the throw from Olbermann but made no mention of Olbermann's departure whatsoever. (That matter-of-fact tone seemed to come from the top. MSNBC released a terse, two-line statement after Olbermann made his announcement.)
The timing, at least, seemed to catch Olbermann himself by surprise. Earlier in the day Friday, the "Countdown" host went through his usual series "show plugs" on Twitter. Shortly before airtime, however, Olbermann tweeted, "We will have a slight change in the Thurber selection tonight."
Fox News’ primetime hosts — including mortal Olbermann enemy Bill O’Reilly — made no mention of Olbermann’s demise at MSNBC. (“The Factor” was pre-taped.) But the news was carried at or near the top of the FoxNews.com homepage throughout the night.
CNN's Piers Morgan, the newest foot soldier in cable news’ primetime war, did not address the Olbermann situation on his show (it was a pre-taped interview with malaria-stricken George Clooney) on Friday. But he did offer his opinion on Twitter:
American TV needs a @KeithOlbermann — whether you agree with him or not, he's got passion. And that's always a good thing.