Regular readers of this news and opinion website know that we are big fans of Keith Olbermann, whose show “The Countdown” on MSNBC is the closest the MSM gets to offering news that is truly fair and truly balanced. In other words, it is the only news show that dares to present news that is not fully vetted by the White House message machine.
On Monday’s show, in the wake of news of the death of Peter Jennings from lung cancer, Olbermann confessed that he had a bout with smoking-related cancer and encouraged everyone who smokes to quit. But the manner in which he did this infuriated his boss, Rick Kaplan, MSNBC’s president.
Details of what Olbermann said on-air will follow but first let’s take a quick look at his boss. Here’s what USA Today wrote about Kaplan when he took the reins at MSNBC in 2004:
For the past year, Kaplan has been an ABC News senior executive, but he spent nearly 20 years there before being tapped to run CNN in 1997… Under Kaplan, CNN’s ratings dropped 23%. And his signature nightly newsmagazine, NewsStand, failed to draw audiences after a disastrous start: CNN apologized — and later retracted — after the premiere edition charged that the United States had used nerve gas during Vietnam.
In recent months, Kaplan hired the truly awful rightwing propagandist Tucker Carlson away from CNN and gave him an hourlong show that has bombed – which is not a surprise to anyone (with the possible exceptions of Kaplan and Carlson). Now he has moved Tucker to 7PM and given the 6PM show to Rita Cosby, an avowed rightwing Christian whom he hired from Fox.
Call us cynical but there’s reason to suspect that Kaplan’s wrath at Keith on Monday was over than his concern that talk of tumors might’ve turned off viewers. If Kaplan gets rid of Keith, he’ll can give the 5PM slot to some O’Reilly wannabe, and have a full evening of Fox light.
Here’s an excerpt from Lloyd Grove’s gossip column in the New York Daily News about the Olbermann- Kaplan contretemps:
I hear that MSNBC staffers in the Secaucus newsroom-studio watched in horror Monday night as the volatile Kaplan, the president of the cable outlet, publicly laced into the eccentric Olbermann, anchor of the 8 p.m. show “Countdown,” after the latter eulogized lung-cancer victim Peter Jennings with a graphic rant about his own cancer scare.
Olbermann – a former pipe and cigar smoker – is said to have looked stunned as Kaplan raced onto the set and shouted at him after he signed off.
Olbermann had urged viewers to quit smoking and repeatedly mentioned “spitting blood” and “spitting globs of myself into a garbage can” while discussing his bout with a benign tumor in in his mouth.
I’m told that Kaplan erupted angrily and at length, calling Olbermann “out of control” and “not to be trusted,” and accusing him of driving away viewers from the [6 PM] debut of Kaplan hire Rita Cosby’s show, “Live and Direct.”
Kaplan – a friend and former ABC News colleague of Jennings, and a frequent cigar smoker – apparently got even angrier when Olbermann suggested that the reason he was upset was that “this is about you.”
I’m told that the anchor quietly asked the news exec to move the discussion to a private location, but the enraged Kaplan wouldn’t hear of it.
“I don’t care if you don’t come to work tomorrow,” Kaplan told Olbermann, according to my spies.
Kaplan is obviously tryting to emulate Fox News with his line up of Chris Matthews, a spittle-spewing Clinton-hater; Olbermann; Rita Cosby; and the grotesque, unwatchable Joe Scarborough. He should be fired.
Please let MSNBC know that you’d start watching it if they would offer more independent voices like Keith’s – which means firing Rick Kaplan: Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or his boss, Neal Shaprio, president of NBC News at email@example.com.