Keith Olbermann Dishes on MSNBC’s Attempts to Lure Him Back – and Apparent Rachel Maddow Beef

Olbermann also fills in some of the blanks about the Lawrence O’Donnell drama in 2017

Keith Olbermann
Keith Olbermann

A day after The Daily Beast reported MSNBC almost brought back ex-host Keith Olbermann to replace Rachel Maddow, Olbermann has weighed in, filling in more details — from his perspective — about the matter, including his reported conflict with Rachel Maddow.

Among other things, Olbermann conceded he may have started that conflict with Maddow by his actions in 2011. He also specifically accused ex-NBC News boss Andy Lack of plotting to fire Lawrence O’Donnell and give O’Donnell’s show to Olbermann nearly a year before that whole thing became public drama.

You can read the Daily Beast’s story here, but the upshot: According to their reporting, MSNBC wanted to bring Olbermann back to host a show in the time slot currently occupied by “The Rachel Maddow Show.” According to DB, Maddow, who is of course pivoting to a new role at the network starting later this year, personally vetoed a potential Olbermann deal.

So on Thursday, Olbermann decided to spill a little tea, with a lengthy Twitter thread, and addressed the details of that story. He confirmed “yes there were talks,” and “yes they were serious,” said that NBC “lied through its teeth denying them,” and that it was NBC that blamed everything falling through on Maddow.

But Olbermann added a new wrinkle: He claims that MSNBC first approached him to return to the network in September, 2011, 8 months after he bolted to take his show, “Countdown,” over to the now-defunct Current TV.

MSNBC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap. But in the thread, Olbermann linked to both The Daily Beast and a separate account of the situation by Puck News. He said the Puck story appeared to give some credibility to the idea NBC was “gaslighting” him with these negotiations. Which led him to offer some more explicit descriptions of his conflict with Maddow.

Olbermann explained that one strategy to get around “Rachel Maddow’s ‘ill will’ towards me” was to let her production company own part of any show that he did for MSNBC, “and have her be its Executive Producer, even in absentia.” Olbermann said these talks took place in October of 2021.

However, according to Olbermann, ex-MSNBC boss Phil Griffin “reported back – to NBC – that Rachel did not approve. The end.” Olbermann also said that Griffin had opposed bringing Maddow to MSNBC when she first began appearing as a contributor on “Countdown” in 2008.

“Incidentally I probably started the disharmony [with Maddow] with some dumb strategic moves when I took ‘Countdown’ to Current TV. But I never did anything like this s—,” Olbermann added.

Olbermann went on to detail what he said was an attempt by Andy Lack to bring him back to the network in 2016, including some pretty shady behavior. Lack wanted Olbermann to do a 10 PM show “with a conservative cohost and no commentaries.”

Olbermann said he turned down this offer, not only because he couldn’t get a serious commitment from MSNBC. “I was also more than a little worried that Lack had chosen a name for the show: ‘THE LAST WORD WITH KEITH OLBERMANN AND KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON,’” Olbermann wrote, adding that he has no idea if Anderson is aware of any of this.

Olbermann continued: “I said ‘you HAVE a show called ‘Last Word.’ Lack replied ‘not for long.’”

This is a particularly interesting assertion because of what happened the next year. In May 2017, it became public that Lack wanted to fire Lawrence O’Donnell, whose show, which airs right after Maddow’s, is called “The Last Word.”

According to credible reports at the time, the network refused to negotiate with O’Donnell and intended to boot him when his contract expired. This was apparently part of a plan by Lack to steer MSNBC’s liberal primetime programming in a more conservative direction — despite the huge ratings that MSNBC’s liberal lineup was getting.

Those ratings eventually saved O’Donnell’s show; he renewed his contract with MSNBC 2 weeks after that whole thing spilled out into the open. Coincidentally, three months after that situation was resolved, an NBC producer leaked embarrassing footage of O’Donnell losing his cool over on-set noise in between segments; O’Donnell apologized for that outburst.

Lack was eventually pushed out of NBC News after Ronan Farrow reported that NBC News canceled what eventually became his groundbreaking expose of Harvey Weinstein, forcing him to take the story elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in his thread Thursday, Olbermann said that the negotiations reported by The Daily Beast began in 2019 and continued for two and a half years. Olbermann also denied a NY Post report that he’d attempted to get MSNBC host Chris Hayes fired, and claimed that he once threatened to quit, on-air, when he found out Rachel Maddow wasn’t being compensated for her appearances on MSNBC.

Olbermann added that once the most recent negotiations collapsed, “I wrote a note to Rachel, a full apology for the divisions that have seen us not speak since 2011. It was hand-delivered and she confirmed she got and read it. She never replied.”

Read his entire thread below: