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The Real Reason Olbermann Got Canned

By Sean Kerrigan
Saturday, November 6, 2010

By now, both fans and detractors of MSNBC's big name commentator Keith Olbermann, are aware that he has been fired for making contributions to Democratic candidates in various races around the country.

What hasn't yet emerged is the real story from behind the scenes. It might be the understatement of the year to say that Keith Olbermann isn't shy about putting his liberal views on display and it should be no surprise that he unequivocally supports Democratic candidates. That MSNBC or it's viewers would be so shocked that he would provide economic support to them as well is a bit disingenuous. And yet, NBC news president Steve Capus came down hard on Olbermann, quickly dismissing him from his primetime show.

It didn't take long for defenders on the internet to note that Olbermann isn't the only MSNBC commentator to donate to political candidates, most prominently, Republican Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe. Even conservative adversaries have noticed the punishment seemed unusually harsh.

Bill Kristol, editor and founder of the conservative Weekly Standard , objected to Olbermann's dismissal.

"First, he donated money to candidates he liked. He didn’t take money, or favors, in a way that influenced his reporting.

Second, he’s not a reporter. It’s an opinion show. If Olbermann wants to put his money where his mouth is, more power to him."

Kristol goes on to say MSNBC's parent company, General Electric, has a history of using it's media to curry favor with congress and that they are now attempting to soften their image as the Republican's are about to take control in the House.

"Perhaps Olbermann violated NBC News “policy and standards.” But NBC doesn’t have real news standards for MSNBC—otherwise the channel wouldn’t exist. It’s a little strange to get all high and mighty now. But there’s now a Republican House, and perhaps GE is trying to curry favor by dumping Olbermann."

MSNBC later announced that on Monday it would be using the Olbermann slot to discuss the new memoir by former president George W. Bush.

So Kristol's assessment might have some weight to it, but more likely, Olbermann's political contributions were simply an excuse to end a contract with a man the management had grown to see as an agitator.

Olbermann has a history of suspensions, firings, and a general aptitude for burning bridges. His falling ratings were also a topic of regular discussion among news blogs. While Olbermann's ratings have declined over the last year, they were often higher while he was on vacation or otherwise absent from the program, leading some to speculate as recently as early this year, that he would be dismissed in favor of a new personality.

While commentators can certainly speculate as to the real reason Olbermann was ejected, it's becoming increasingly clear that the official story is merely an excuse to exercise their termination clause.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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An unrelated, but amusing critique of Olbermann's personality qwerks.

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