Talk about a Friday afternoon dump: Keith Olbermann and his $50-million, five-year contract dumped by Al Gore's audience-challenged Current TV after less than a year on-air.
There is no shortage of meat for analysts to chew on these bones, and that is going to make for a tasty couple of days of media dish as Olbermann's enemies tear into whatever hide the one-time relatively powerful cable TV anchor has left.
For his part, Olbermann was on Twitter Friday threatening to sue.
"I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV. Editorially, Countdown had never been better," Olbermann tweeted.
"But for more than a year I have been imploring @AlGore and @JoelHyatt to resolve our issues internally," he added, saying that they had instead publicized their disputes."
For the last few years, I was one of the paranoid Olbermann's many enemies, at least, in his mind. You can read about it on your own; I'm not even going to offer you a link to the multiple videos featuring me as one of Olbermann's worst persons. That's history, and it feels like Olbermann is no longer all that relevant. In fact, he's kind of a dead host walking these days -- marginalized beyond the marginalization that Current defines.
I hailed his departure from MSNBC in January of 2011 because I believed with him leaving that channel, and Glenn Beck leaving Fox News, cable news TV would be a far less polarized and toxic space. The marginalization that I predicted for both, was on the money. But what a silly, silly fool I was to think cable news would get any better just because two of its most vocal and dangerous voices on the right and left were gone from their mainstream podiums.
Cable news is just as bad or worse than it has ever been with MSNBC host Al Sharpton holding rallies that attempt to heat up emotions rather than provide answers or, God help us, clarity on such stories as the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Ditto for Ed Schultz, another MSNBC rabblerousing ideologue, who takes huge payoffs from unions and leads rallies in places like Madison, Wisconsin, when he's sent there to presumably cover a story involving unions.
And let's not forget CNN contributor Roland Martin pre-judging guilt and telling viewers what participants were thinking. That would be the same Roland Martin, by the way, who on Super Bowl night used Twitter to advocate violence against men who didn't measure up to his idea of masculinity.
The cancer in cable TV news runs deeper than reckless, hotdog show hosts like Olbermann or Schultz. They are just the symptom that distracts us from the real disease, which is executives like MSNBC's Phil Griffin who says he's proud of the actions of hosts like Sharpton. Or channel owners like Gore, who is now running a nursing home for diagraced and/or defeated Democratic governors.
So, forgive me if I don't go crazy at the news that Olbermann is out at a national cable channel that draws fewer viewers in prime time than most local stations draw for their 11 p.m. newscasts in Top 20 markets.
I predicted Gore and Current would rue the day they hired Olbermann, and it came sooner than even I thought it would. Olbermann has been doing his crazy dance for months -- not showing up on election nights, and then tweeting crazy stuff about why he wasn't on-air.
I'll include the very personal, meant-to-trash statement that Current owners Gore and Joel Hyatt issued in kicking Olbermann's butt out the door Friday.
But for all their talk about the audience-based values Olbermann allegedly betrayed, his firing wasn't really about that. It wasn't even about him acting like a crazy person.
He was canned. because Gore and Hyatt found out what some critics like me told them 18 months ago was actually true: Olbermann doesn't have an audience of more than a million viewers who will follow him anywhere on a nightly basis. As it turned out, he didn't have even a fraction of that audience.
And how do you pay someone $10 million a year for 5 years when local weathermen in Chicago are drawing larger audiences on the late news?
But at the moment, most of my contempt is for Gore, and his arrogance in thinking he knows anything about media except how to manipulate writers and critics on the far left into ignoring his failures as they keep insisting what a genius he is.
Gore's channel is every bit as bad or worse than MSNBC and Fox News in terms of its bias, distortion and outright propaganda. And while Fox News is a well-run machine that scores ratings triumph and after ratings triumph, Current TV is a mess. While Fox News is tribal in its shared sense of values and mission (as journalistically debased as those values might be), Current is a gang of used-up politicians and unabashed ideologues.
I am thinking mainly of Eliot Spitzer, the self-righteous crusading prosecutor who manipulated banking transactions to try and hide his payment to prostitutes.
Yes, I said CNN would rue the day it hired him as well, but that was shooting fish in the barrel for anyone but the CNN executives stupid or desperate enough to give him a show in the middle of prime time. Spitzer didn't last a year, did he? And he helped cost the guy who hired him his job as well.
But wait, there is someone even more desperate and stupid than the CNN exececutive who gave Spitzer another show in the middle of prime time: Al Gore.
"Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer" launches tonight (Friday) at 8. The least trusted man in American television is back in prime time, folks.
Can we say "seat of the pants," boys and girls? How about "making it up as we go along," Mr. Rogers?
Ain't cable news TV great?
And this, researchers say, is where most Americans now get their political news.
Here's the statement from Current:
To the Viewers of Current:
We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.
Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.
We are moving ahead by honoring Current's values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily -- especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.
As we move toward this summer's political conventions and the general election in the fall, Current is making significant new additions to our broadcasts. We have just debuted six hours of new programming each weekday with Bill Press ("Full Court Press, at 6 am ET/3 am PT) and Stephanie Miller ("Talking Liberally," at 9 am ET/6 pm PT).
We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year. We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Governor Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.
All of these additions to Current's lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal -- the goal that has always been central to Current's mission: To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voice is too seldom heard. We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.
Al Gore & Joel Hyatt
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