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Olbermann Reflects, In Great Detail, On MSNBC Anchors Of The Past

Keith Olbermann hasn’t appeared on MSNBC since March 1 (and hasn’t anchored Countdown since February 24) while he cares for his ailing father.

But that doesn’t mean he’s disappeared from the web, where he’s been feuding with ESPN’s Bill Simmons, and last night took time to explain, in great detail, the history of some former MSNBC anchors.

It’s hard to really see where this all began, but Keith Olbermann responded to an interview between Cenk Uygur and Jesse Ventura with a lengthy blog post on Daily Kos last night. Then he followed it up with 18 more comments to fellow Kos commenters. All concern his history with MSNBC, Ventura’s, Ashleigh Banfield‘s time at the network (and leaving the network) and…more.

Here’s a taste of the initial blog post:

The other landmarks of shaking the fog of propaganda followed as they did for most of us. But by early summer 2003 there was no mistaking Countdown as an Iraq-skeptical show. Hell, the day Georgie dressed up in Daddy’s flightsuit I was on live with Chris Matthews and asked him why anybody with a sketchy record in the Air National Guard was reminding everybody about said record – and declaring anything accomplished when we still had thousands of troops on harm’s way.

My point in this long preface is that it was at about this time we won what Jesse correctly remembers as a bidding war for his tv services. Why not? He was popular, recognizable, intelligent, a television veteran, and a recent ex-Governor. And so he was signed, met the advertisers with us (I recall his displeasure that Chris, Scarborough, Lester Holt and I were all a little taller than he was), and they set about developing the show…But the shows were dreadful. Jesse is a fantastic guest, an original and lively thinker. But he couldn’t host. It didn’t work.

Someone in the comments brought up Banfield, and here’s Olbermann’s take on how that went down:

They gave her informal notice, mostly as a courtesy, that they were not intending to renew her contract when it ran out. I’m not sure of the dates, but I do know that when I got back to MSNBC in Feb/March 2003, she was on the road or something and I worked out of her Secaucus office, using the people who had produced her already-cancelled MSNBC show (three of whom are still the producers of my show, seven years later). One day she even came in, all smiles, we reminisced, I commiserated with her about her impending life after MSNBC, and I went out and worked at a desk somewhere.

Having been given a lot of notice (maybe as much as a year) she made her speech about Iraq. Then they formally notified her, yes, as planned, they would not be renewing her contract/giving her a new contract.

So, was she “not renewed after giving her Iraq speech”? Yes. Was she told they weren’t going to renew her before she gave her Iraq speech? Yes.

Just like Jesse, the “I got fired because I was critical of the war” story is a lot better than the “they didn’t renew my contract” story.

And was there an attempt to lurch right at MS? Sure as hell was! They signed Michael Savage, didn’t they? And they fired him, too. But kept me.

This directly contradicts Banfield’s version of events, which she laid out in a 2009 magazine profile:

As Banfield surveyed developments like these, she began to question the state of cable news: Had the line between journalism and entertainment grown irreversibly blurred? Her unease deepened with the coverage of the Iraq War in March and April of 2003, which she thought celebrated the triumphs of war at the expense of the scarcely visible tragedies. These concerns formed the basis of a lecture Banfield delivered at Kansas State University on April 24, 2003, a couple of weeks after the fall of Baghdad. The lecture caused a furor — especially among her bosses at NBC, who publicly rebuked her: “We are deeply disappointed and troubled by her remarks, and will review her comments with her.”

Banfield had no inkling that her comments would severely damage her career.

And so on.

Olbermann also wrote about Phil Donohue: “Phil Donahue got cancelled. Everything else on MSNBC got cancelled, too – and usually in half the time Phil got.” And he wrote about CNN: “Given that at that time, CNN had me under provisional contract for a nightly show but was bypassing me for the hour-long shows they were handing out to Aaron Brown, Anderson Cooper, Connie Chung, and Paula Zahn, I needed every quarter I could (and was supposed to) get.”

And more.

That’s a lot to digest. We’ll just leave it with – we wish Olbermann and his father the best while he goes through this difficult time. No word yet on when he’s back on MSNBC.

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