Keith Olbermann leaving MSNBC, ends "Countdown"__________________________________________________________________________________
Jan 21, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Keith Olbermann is leaving MSNBC and has announced that Friday's "Countdown" show will be his last.
MSNBC issued a statement Friday that it had ended its contract with the controversial host, with no further explanation. Olbermann hosted the network's top-rated show, but his combative liberal opinions often made him a target of critics.
Olbermann did not explain why he was leaving.
"MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors," the network said.
A spokesman said Phil Griffin, MSNBC's president, would not comment on Olbermann's exit. Spokesman Jeremy Gaines would say only that the acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast, which received regulatory approval this week, had nothing to do with the decision.
Olbermann was suspended without pay from the network for two days in November for donating to three Democratic candidates, which violated NBC News' policy on political donations. Olbermann complained that he was being punished for mistakenly violating an inconsistently applied rule that he had known nothing about.
The host apologized to fans - but not to the network.
Olbermann, before leaving the show with a final signature toss of his script toward the camera, thanked his audience for sticking with him and read a James Thurber poem.
"This may be the only television program where the host was much more in awe of the audience than vice versa," he said.
He thanked a series of people, including the late Tim Russert, but pointedly not Griffin or NBC News President Steve Capus.
Olbermann's prime-time show is the network's top-rated. His evolution from a humorous look at the day's headlines into a pointedly liberal show in the last half of George W. Bush's administration led MSNBC to largely shift the tone of the network in his direction, with the hiring of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell in primetime.
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