It's About Time!!
Keith Olbermann may be the "voice" of MSNBC, but network executives have decided to yank the talkmeister off its political anchor desk after the cable channel finished dead last in the Nielsen rankings of all news coverage during the two weeks of political conventions.
The network announced Monday that Olbermann and Chris Matthews have both been booted as co-hosts on political night coverage in favor of David Gregory, whose White House press corps experience may make him better suited to deliver sober and less opinion-driven assessments of the news.
All summer, MSNBC executives have fought off complaints that Olbermann and Matthews, the network's top commentators, could serve in the role of impartial newsmen. Those complaints reached a crescendo last week when Olbermann, reporting on the Republican National Convention from New York rather than St. Paul, apologized to the audience after the channel aired a Sept. 11 video tribute crafted by the RNC.
"We would be rightly eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republican Party itself, for exploiting the memories of the dead, and perhaps even for trying to evoke that pain again. If you reacted to that videotape the way I did, I apologize," Olbermann said.
The network's weak ratings during the conventions may have given MSNBC executives the cover they needed to boot Olbermann and Matthews. FOX News Channel topped all broadcast and cable networks with 9.2 million viewers on each of the last two nights of the convention. MSNBC got barely more than a quarter of Fox's total --2.5 million viewers.
MSNBC also ranked last among the three cable channels during primetime coverage of the last two nights of the Democratic convention.
Olbermann's hard left views and his catfights with other MSNBC hosts have been the talk of gossip pages all summer. Olbermann sarcastically dismissed Republican pundit Pat Buchanan on the air after Buchanan said the GOP had been enlivened by Sarah Palin's vice presidential nomination.
"Those reading Us Weekly with the picture of her and her youngest daughter with the word 'scandal' written across it won't be so happy," Olbermann said.
He also expressed no regard for the GOP's push back against rumors about Palin's personal life.
"We'll see if people feel sorry for unfounded rumors on the Internet," he said. "If that's the case, Senator Obama's probably standing up and cheering and waiting for people to feel sorry for him."
Olbermann's brash style may also have earned him enemies within his own organization. He was caught on microphones mocking another MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough, when Scarborough was discussing positive developments in McCain's campaign.
"Jesus, Joe, why don't you get a shovel?" he asked.
At another time, Matthews snapped at Olbermann on-air when it appeared Olbermann was criticizing him for talking too much. Matthews told TVNewser last week that he and Olbermann get along fine. It's not clear when Matthews was informed of the decision to bounce him from the anchor spot along with Olbermann.
Asked about the internal fighting at MSNBC, NBC anchor Brian Williams tried to smooth ruffled feathers during an appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" last week.
"Is there no control?" asked host Jon Stewart. "Is it 'Lord of the Flies'?"
Williams replied that every family has a dynamic of its own.
"But does MSNBC have to be the Lohans?" Stewart said.
As a result of the internal turmoil, Gregory will now anchor MSNBC's coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates, as well as on election night, said network spokesman Jeremy Gaines.
Olbermann did score an interview with Barack Obama on his "Countdown" show. That is set to air Monday and will go up against Bill O'Reilly's interview with Obama on FOX News. A portion of the O'Reilly interview with Obama aired last Thursday and earned O'Reilly his second highest rating ever, with more than 6.6 million viewers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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