Keith Olbermann's current feud with Current TV5:44 pm - 01/10/2012
Also: Keith Olbermann Disputes Claims He Mistreated Former MSNBC Staffers
(article behind the LJ cut)
Keith Olbermann Agrees to Anchor Current TV's New Hampshire Election Coverage
1/8/2012 by Marisa Guthrie, The Hollywood Reporter (THR)
After a rocky week of public sniping between Keith Olbermann and the management of Current, Olbermann will anchor on election nights beginning after the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.
"I am pleased that I’ll be running the election coverage on Current, following this Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary," said Olbermann in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday. "However, I don’t think those participating in the New Hampshire primary will share my satisfaction."
A spokesperson for Current confirmed that progress between the two parties was made over the weekend and that they expect Olbermann to participate in election coverage going forward.
"He told us he will do upcoming special election coverage," a Current spokesperson told THR on Sunday. "We certainly hope he does. That was our intention all along."
Olbermann will have complete creative and editorial control. But it's unclear exactly what that coverage will look like; whether Olbermann will do a special edition of Countdown with his own panel of guests or lead the network's Politically Direct election specials, which have featured Cenk Uygur, Jennifer Granholm and network co-founder Al Gore.
The timing of the détente means Politically Direct will continue as planned on Tuesday.
Olbermann is nearly a year into a five-year deal that includes the title of chief news officer and an equity stake in the channel. Simmering tensions between Olbermann and Current management boiled over when Current pre-empted Olbermann’s Countdown on Jan. 3 for Politically Direct coverage of the Iowa caucuses, the first vote of the GOP primary season.
Olbermann had planned to anchor his show on Jan. 3 as usual and had his staff report to work. This prompted Current president David Bohrman to send the Countdown staff a memo to clear up the “misunderstanding.”
“As we assumed Keith had communicated to you, Keith was asked to be the sole anchor and executive producer of our primary and caucus coverage. He declined,” wrote Bohrman in the memo, which was obtained by THR. “We then made other plans to have our 4 hours of prime time election coverage [Jan. 3] hosted by Al Gore, Jennifer Granholm, and The Young Turks. We tried several times to have Keith participate in our coverage, including being the lead anchor for the 8p hour tonight, incorporated with our election group in the Los Angeles studio and produced in the LA control room.”
Olbermann said in a statement to THR that he was “never given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable conditions. They know it and we know it.”
It’s no secret that Olbermann’s New York-based show has been beset by technical difficulties; satellite feeds have dropped out and in early December a blown fuse caused the lights to go out while Olbermann was on the air.
Keith Olbermann's Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/KeithOlbermann
If you would to read more about the disagreement between Olbermann and the Current TV management over the past week, visit this link at The Hollywood Reporter.
More Keith O. scuttlebutt from the past few days:
Keith Olbermann Disputes Claims He Mistreated Former MSNBC Staffers
1/10/2012 by Erin Carlson, The Hollywood Reporter (THR)
The Current TV host shoots down a report alleging he bullied employees while working at his previous cable news network gig.
The headline-making tension between Keith Olbermann and the management of Current TV appears to have summoned one of the cable anchor's ex-employees out of the woodwork.
On Monday, an anonymous -- and alleged -- former staffer on MSNBC's Countdown provided an anti-Olbermann rant to the website Gawker, detailing claims of his off-camera antics and bad behavior toward co-workers. (OP note: Gawker article posted below.)
"Keith is the walking definition of a hostile work environment," the source was quoted as saying. "Countdown had a 75 (percent) staff turnover rate in the time I was there -- high even for the cable news business. Keith had people he liked, and people he didn't like, and there was no rhyme or reason to it. When he didn't like someone, he'd berate them and belittle their work until they left the show. Then he'd do the same to the next person on his s--t list. When someone he liked moved on, he'd take it out on the rest of us. If he got mad at someone for something specific (like not magically knowing he didn't want to be bothered at a certain time), he wouldn't acknowledge them for the rest of the day."
Among the other claims: he had temper tantrums; he iced out a colleague for wearing a perfume he didn't like; he wore unflattering suits to work but nobody could bring wardrobe issues to his attention because he had allegedly been "traumatized" by a childhood shopping incident.
Olbermann -- who finally agreed to anchor Current's election coverage following a public clash over production values of his Countdown program and other gripes -- quickly weighed in on the Gawker post, calling the allegations "hilariously inaccurate" and the source "fake" on Twitter. Then he emailed the site directly for good measure.
"The turnover figure is laughably wrong," said Olbermann, who currently holds the title of chief news officer and an equity stake iin Current. "Of the top 20 staffers on Countdown when we started in 2003, 17 were still there the day I left. In fact, three of them went with me to Current, and one of them who'd left MSNBC rejoined me over here (his fourth separate stint working with and for me) -- all unlikely events if any of the stuff made up by your 'source' was true."
"As to the overall characterization of my conduct as an employer and employee," he continued, "I would point out again: prior to my Current gig I've had nine full time employers. Three have rehired me later in my career (CNN, MSNBC, ESPN) and three others asked me to come back but we couldn't work it out."
He added: "I will admit the traumatic shopping story is very, very funny. But you've been seriously punked here."
A Former Keith Olbermann Employee Speaks: Rage, Outbursts, and Bad Suits
1/9/12 Hamilton Nolan, Gawker.com
Pompous thesaurus reader Keith Olbermann is currently embroiled in his latest feud with his latest employer, along with the mandatory feud with the reporters who report on Keith's feuds. Has Keith always been such a touchy, obsessive psycho? Perhaps an ex-employee could shed some light.
After news of Keith's latest uproar broke last week, someone who'd worked for him in his MSNBC days emailed us the following account of what it was like to work for the sensitive, anger-plagued, wearer of bad suits.
Ok...for starters, TheButlerDidIt's comment on this thread (OP: see link at bottom of post) [describing Olbermann as "a huge nerd, had lots of emotional issues, low self-esteem, depression, and self-destructive behavior"] sums up his personality, but doesn't include how those traits manifested (and still do, in all likelihood) in abusive behavior toward his staff — not just the executives who make enough f you money to deal with his bull... He doesn't have reasonable reactions to missteps, he gets angry and finds ways to take his anger out on people.
-Keith is the walking definition of a hostile work environment. Countdown had a 75% staff turnover rate in the time I was there — high even for the cable news business. Keith had people he liked, and people he didn't like, and there was no rhyme or reason to it. When he didn't like someone, he'd berate them and belittle their work until they left the show. Then he'd do the same to the next person on his shit list. When someone he liked moved on, he'd take it out on the rest of us. If he got mad at someone for something specific (like not magically knowing he didn't want to be bothered at a certain time), he wouldn't acknowledge them for the rest of the day.
-If someone he didn't like left, he'd tell them how useless/incompetent/stupid he thought they were, instead of handling it like an adult and just being quietly glad they were gone. Then he's put someone new on his s list.
-He has terrible fashion sense and ill-fitting suits. [Ed. note: absolutely true, see the pic above for but one example of his well-chronicled bad suit fit affliction] And yet, no one was allowed to talk to him about this and remedy the problem because he was "traumatized" (the exact word from our EP) by a shopping incident in his childhood when his mother made him try on wool suits in the summer and he got hot.
-Keith's camera people and the show's director liked his anchor producer. Sometimes they'd do a bump shot that panned off her face (you know, for that newsroom effect) out of or into a commercial break. He made them stop, because the show "is about me, not about her."
-More than a year into her employment, he started getting headaches from the perfume one of his staff members wore. I know scent sensitivity is a real thing, and I'm sympathetic to it, but this also coincided with her moving up on his shit list. Instead of taking the normal HR route of asking her not to wear the perfume, he banished her from coming into his office and (if I remember correctly) had her desk moved farther away. At one point (again, if I remember correctly), she stopped wearing her perfume, but he claimed he could still smell it on her clothes. She was a very sweet, very hard working and professional woman, and he bullied her out of her job.
-This scent sensitivity resulted in literally months of him playing musical offices (between three adjacent offices) to get away from the smell of paint from a construction job he had requested. This continued even after they brought in fans to diffuse the fumes, had other people evaluate the fume situation, etc. The musical offices game was accompanied with his shitty moods.
-Periodically Keith would decide, for no apparent reason (or for a stupid reason that he'd yell at us for as soon as he got in, like the car company sending the wrong car for him. God forbid if they sent an SUV.), that no one was allowed to bother him in his office until the show. Of course, segment producers have to brief him on the pre-interviews they did with the guests that were to appear on his show that night, so they'd have to break this rule and incur his wrath in order to do their jobs, which helped him do his. Sometimes they were forbidden from even doing that; they'd have to leave a post-it on his door instead.
-He gave MSNBC's ad department a photo to use in print ads they were making, but they went with his standard headshot against an NBC-color background instead. This is reasonable; it upholds the brand. This caused him to have a temper tantrum. Part of his reaction was to bang his entire phone against his desk before throwing it against the wall in his office. This kind of outburst, and its lack of proportion to the offense, is par for the course with him.
Finally, this is not about him being nice or not being nice, this is about him creating a toxic,abusive, unsustainable work environment wherever he goes, and taking his issues out on everyone around him, not just the execs. He made several people on our show cry on a fairly consistent basis. These were not soft people, either. These incidents I mentioned above might not seem that bad, but when taken together, along with other stuff I've forgotten, they created an atmosphere where the collective dread of his arrival into the studio at 2:30 would be palpable. The other anchors at MSNBC weren't all nice, but they managed to be professional. He needs to get help and learn to be a functioning adult, seriously.
*Standard "former employees may be 'disgruntled' " disclaimer here.* We've emailed Keith for a response, and we'll post it if we receive one. If you ever worked for Keith and would like to share your stories, email me. Anonymity is fine.
UPDATE: Keith has decided to take to his Twitter to complain about our post, to our infinite shock and surprise. And now (Update 2) he's responded to our email. His response:
As I pointed out on twitter, your "source" is easily proved as a fake. The "anchor producer" never sat inside the studio and would not have been visible by any camera for any bump shot - but of course we also never did any bump shots.
The turnover figure is laughably wrong. Of the top 20 staffers on Countdown when we started in 2003, 17 were still there the day I left. In fact, three of them went with me to Current, and one of them who'd left MSNBC rejoined me over here (his fourth separate stint working with and for me) - all unlikely events if any of the stuff made up by your "source" was true.
As to the overall characterization of my conduct as an employer and employee I would point out again: prior to my Current gig I've had nine full time employers. Three have rehired me later in my career (CNN, MSNBC, ESPN) and three others asked me to come back but we couldn't work it out.
I will admit the traumatic shopping story is very, very funny. But you've been seriously punked here.
Our source responds: "Keith's reaction is par for the course — even given what I experienced and shared with Gawker, I will always remain stunned by the depths of his denial about his behavior and his lack of self-awareness. I stand by what I wrote."
As Keith himself said on Twitter just yesterday, "the # of people who would tell you they do not trust a word their employers say, yet lap up what employers say about others, is amazing."
Keith Olbermann's Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/KeithOlbermann