Keith Olbermann announced tonight that his show “Countdown,” a mainstay of progressive media, would end after Friday’s broadcast. In a statement, MSNBC said the network and Olbermann “have ended their contract.”
“The last broadcast of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ will be this evening,” the statement said. “MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
The New York Times reported Friday that Olbermann “came to an agreement with NBC’s corporate management late this week to settle his contract and step down.” The Times noted that while Olbermann “did not discuss any future plans…NBC executives said one term of his settlement will keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time.”
Olbermann, who has been a fixture at MSNBC since 2003, extended his contract in 2008 for an additional four years for an estimated $30 million.
This announcement that Olbermann would be leaving MSNBC comes two days after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) gave final approval to a controversial merger between NBC Universal, MSNBC’s parent company, and Comcast.
The Times reported, “NBC executives said the move had nothing to do with the impending takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast.”
Last year, Olbermann was suspended for two days after Politico reported that, prior to the midterm elections, he donated $2,400 to Arizona Democratic Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva and Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway in violation of NBC News’ “policy and standards.”
NBC Universal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker, who was one of Olbermann’s staunch defenders and was expected to be on his way out once the merger received government approval, sent a farewell memo to staff today.
MSNBC said the “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” would take over “Countdown’s” 8 pm time slot.
Watch Keith Olbermann’s farewell speech in the video player below.
Here is the full transcript of Olbermann’s closing remarks to his viewers:
I think the same fantasy popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told: ‘This will be the last edition of your show.’
You go to the scene from the movie ‘Network’ complete with the pajamas and the raincoat and go off on a verbal journey of unutterable vision and you insist upon Peter Finch’s gutteral resonance. And you will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell … You know the rest.
In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative. When I resigned from ESPN 13-and-a-half years ago, I was given 30 seconds to say goodbye at the end of my last edition of “SportsCenter.” With God as my witness, in the commercial break before the moment, the producer got into my earpiece and said ‘Can you cut it down to 15 seconds so we can get in the tennis result from Stuttgart?’ I’m grateful that i have more time to sign off here. Regardless, this is the last edition of ‘Countdown.’ It is just under eight years since I returned to MSNBC. I was supposed to fill in for exactly three days; 49 days later, there was a year contract for me to return to this 8:00 time slot that I fled years earlier.
The show established its position as anti-establishment with the stage craft of ‘Mission Accomplished’ to the exaggerated rescue of Jessica Lynch in iraq to the death of Pat Tillman to Hurricane Katrina to the nexus of politics and terror to the first ‘Special Comment.’
There were many occasions where all that surrounded the show and never the show itself was too much for me. With your support and loyalty, if I may use the word ‘insistence,’ required that I keep going. My gratitude to you is boundless and you think I have done good here, imagine how it looked as you donated $2 million to the National Association of Free Clinics and my dying father watched from his hospital bed and comforted that his struggles were inspiring such good for people, he and I and you would never meet, but would always know.
This may be the only television program where in the host the much more in awe of the audience than vice-versa. You will also be in my heart for that and the donations to the family in Tennessee and these victims of governmental heartlessness in Arizona, to say nothing of every letter and tweet and wave and handshake and online petition. Time ebbs here and top the close with more story. It is still Friday. Let me thank my gifted staff and a few of the many people who fought with me and for me: Eric Sorenson, Neal Shapiro, Michael Weiss, David Bloom, John Palmer, Alana Russo, Rachel Maddow and Bob Costas and my greatest protector, the late Tim Russert.