Keith Olbermann and Current TV have severed ties, the progressive cable network announced on Friday. In an open letter to Current viewers, the company’s founders, former Vice President Al Gore and CEO Joel Hyatt, said the network’s values are “no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann.”
Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who had recently filled in, will replace Olbermann starting Friday night, premiering his new program “Viewpoint.”Olbermann in a statement apologized to his viewers for Current’s “failure.”
“Editorially, Countdown had never been better,” he said.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Current decided to let Olbermann go because the progressive pundit “did not respect the viewers of Current.” The basis of his firing included, according to the source: “sabotaging the network” and attacking Current and its executives.”
The source added that Olbermann failed to show up for work without authorization, missing almost half of his working days in the months of January and February. Olbermann asked for a vacation day on March 5, the night before Super Tuesday, according to the source. He was told it would be a breach if he took the vacation, which Olbermann did.
Olbermann denied Current’s accusations, saying that he plans to take legal action against the network. Here’s Olbermann’s full statement:
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. Â But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Â Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.
It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. Â To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. Â That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain.
In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. Â For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. Â That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.
Olbermann’s relationship with Current started to fray back in January, when Olbermann declined to lead the network’s special election coverage of the Iowa caucuses. Olbermann insisted at the time that he wasn’t given a legitimate opportunity to host the coverage. Eventually, both parties came to an agreement, and Olbermann was set to anchor the network’s special election after the New Hampshire primary. Still, it didn’t make for great headlines less than a year after Olbermann landed at Current.
“At the end of the day, Current made a decision, based on a strong legal foundation, that goes beyond merely business considerationsÂ -Â this decision was made because Olbermann was in breach of his contract and his conduct was simply not consistent with either mission of or the values of the company,” the source said.
Here’s Current’s open letter to viewers:
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