Olbermann Exit – Is Liberal Media Under Attack?
By James Donahue
It was during the George W. Bush years in Washington and our growing concern for the barrage of
extreme right wing propaganda emerging from such radio and television commentators as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael
Savage and Bill O’Reilly, we discovered the voice of Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.
Olbermann, an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration, the conservative viewpoint and especially
Fox News which sponsored much of the pro-Republican-anti-anybody-else propaganda, was for us a welcome and powerful voice
in the crowd. He was daring to question the reckless antics of the Bush Administration that led America into two unnecessary
wars, ran up a record federal deficit and allowed the big banks and home loan institutions create a mortgage crisis that brought
the nation to its knees.
A former sports reporter, Olbermann joined MSNBC in 1997, stayed one year, then returned in 2003.
His early shows were often filled with a dark humor that often targeted many of the more outspoken political figures. His
public feud with his hourly rival on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly helped thrust him into popularity. His ratings put the
network in second place in cable news . . . behind Fox News.
The network decided that Olbermann’s formula worked for MSNBC. Rachel Maddow, who frequently
substituted for Olbermann quickly made her mark and was rewarded with her own show that followed Olbermann . . . often with
friendly bantering giving viewers the impression that Maddow was just carrying on where Keith left off. Another regular sub
for both Olbermann and Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, soon had his own show that followed Maddow.
O’Connell is now moved into Olbermann’s regular nightly slot and another recent afternoon
addition, Ed Schultz, is moving into O’Connell’s late evening place.
All of these MSNBC pundits, plus long-time journalist and former Washington speech writer Chris
Matthews, who continues to host the primetime Hardball show that starts every evening’s run, will make up the new weeknight
liberal media lineup. Matthews joined the network at about the same time that Olbermann did. It was Olbermann’s daring
experimentation, coupled with his outstanding oratory ability and grasp of the English language, however, that created the
platform for the network’s current position in the emerging new style of broadcast journalism.
We suspected trouble was brewing in the network in November, 2010, when Olbermann was suspended
indefinitely without pay after he revealed that he had made cash donations to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates
for legislative seats. NBC, the parent company to MSNBC, said it was against company policy for journalists to take political
sides. This seemed odd since the entire MSNBC platform was always in strong defense of the Democratic/social political position.
Olbermann was quickly reinstated after the network received a petition with over 250,000 signatures.
So what is behind Olbermann’s latest sudden and unexpected exit? The rumor mill has been
going wild since it happened at the end of his regular Friday night show. The general story has been that Olbermann’s
relationship with his employers has been getting increasingly worse since the November suspension. When he returned to his
show a few days later, Olbermann was vocally critical of NBC and MSNBC for what happened.
He began adding “special comments” to his show in which he often voiced angry editorial
opinion about political and social issues. He often attacked specific and powerful people in Washington for their actions,
As the story is being told, there was a mutual agreement between Olbermann and his employers to
break his $7 million-a-year four-year contract after two years. The agreement included a buy-out and an agreement that prohibits
Olbermann from returning to the airways for an undisclosed period.
It sounds as if someone in high places was willing to pay good money to shut Keith Olbermann up
for good and put him out to pasture. At the age of 52, he should be at the prime of his career.
In our search of the web, we found one site that offered apparent insight in what really happened
to Olbermann. The blog site TMZ said it learned from “sources” that the ongoing merger between NBC and Comcast
is linked to what happened. As the merger was being finalized, network executives were told Comcast that they wanted Olbermann
out because he was “a loose cannon that could not be controlled.” When word got to Olbermann’s agent, negotiations
for a quick exit were started.
Critics of the merger between NBC and Comcast have expressed deep concern that the monster corporation
that will result will have a major impact on the news and entertainment allowed in America. NBC is a subsidiary of General
Electric Corporation. This monster syndicate is, indeed, will soon be in a position to control most of the news and opinions
we are allowed to watch and hear on radio, television and even the Internet.
If Olbermann’s quick exit is any indication of what is about to come, we fear for the fate
of the rest of the nightly MSNBC personalities. Will they be forced to tread so lightly on their subject matter that the shows
will lose their punch? Has the voice of the liberal-socialist movement in America been effectively silenced or will the others
dare to carry on? We will all know very soon.