Politics & Policy

Meltdown with Keith Olbermann

Gore and Olbermann were never meant to be.

There was only one way for the marriage between Keith Olbermann and Al Gore to end: in acrimony and, very likely, in court.

Olbermann, the former ESPN, Fox Sports Net, and MSNBC (twice) host, is now a former Current TV host. He is to the anchor desk what Zsa Zsa Gabor is to the marriage altar. The left-wing commentator joined the network started by the left-wing former vice president in an arrangement that both conceived of as a way to stick it to The Man, particularly The Man who runs The Corporate Media.

Olbermann gushed upon his hiring that Current would offer “news that is produced independently of corporate interference,” in a “model truth-seeking entity.” Gore bragged about his network’s ability to give Olbermann an “independent platform and freedom.” It turns out that both might have benefited from the discipline of a harsh corporate overlord, since Olbermann didn’t always show up for work and Gore couldn’t keep the lights on in Olbermann’s studio.

#ad#First as tragedy, then as farce doesn’t quite capture the history of Olbermann’s serial dismissals and poisonous exits. It’s farce over and over again. If Olbermann were to join Wayne and Garth as a co-host of Wayne’s World on the local public-access channel in Aurora, Ill., it wouldn’t be long before Olbermann denounced Wayne’s taste in heavy metal, complained about Garth’s inordinate airtime, and quit to start his own show with the public-access channel up the road in DeKalb.

Olbermann is the termagant of the Left, whose on-air biliousness is apparently not an act. He gives limousine liberals a bad name, since the stereotypical representative of the breed is at least satisfied with his car and his driver. According to published reports, Olbermann kept complaining about the car services contracted to ferry him to work to issue populist jeremiads in favor of Occupy Wall Street.

Olbermann had a contract for $50 million over five years, a confirmation of the axiom that no matter how much someone derides corporate greed, he wants to make as much money as possible, ideally for as little effort as possible. Current had trouble getting Olbermann to show up to do coverage on election nights despite his status as the network’s “chief news officer.”

To be fair, that is a little like being designated a rear admiral in the Swiss navy. Calling Current TV a network is an insult to networks that people know how to find on their TVs. Current could broadcast the Super Bowl and it would be halftime before people could track it down with their remotes — if, that is, their cable systems carried it at all.

Olbermann must have thought that he was Edward R. Murrow — the legendary CBS newsman whose signature sign-off he aped — trapped in the body of a local newscaster in a very minor media market. He had a million viewers at MSNBC. At Current, he had 100,000 in the key 25-to-54 demographic last summer, before dwindling to 30,000, according to The Daily Beast. He probably could have reached as many people standing on a soapbox in Times Square on any given night, without having to sweat Current’s amateurish production values.

Now it’s all over but the litigation and revenge: Current fired Olbermann, and Olbermann is ready to sue Current and expose Al Gore’s alleged outrages against decency. It’s hard to see what Gore did to deserve the storm of toxicity Olbermann is about to bring down on his head. Except, of course, he did hire Keith Olbermann.

The ill-fated adventure was always misconceived. Corporate media don’t need to be countered by the likes of Current. The big, bad corporations give us the entire monochromatic media gamut, from the thinly disguised biases of the broadcast networks to the nightly progressive ululating on MSNBC. Current isn’t a breakthrough; it’s a redundancy. And now it has the same angry former anchor as corporate-owned MSNBC. Good night and good luck.

— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate

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