Keith Olbermann Addresses His Absence From Iowa Caucus Coverage With THR

 Wesley Mann

Sources close to Current say their No. 1 star declined to anchor the coverage and The New York Times cited tension between the anchor and his employer. THR asked for an explanation from Keith Olbermann, whose Countdown has become Current's top-rated show but has experienced on-air technical difficulties (in December the studio lights went out, prompting the sardonic host to return the following evening with a candle).

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This is what he responded:

"The team I'm fortunate enough to be a part of has produced -- in my opinion and that of the veterans of the old show -- the best editions of Countdown we've ever had. We've gone from a standing start, yet we've put together a product that is editorially superior to anything in the space. And despite our underdog position or the concomitant glitches built in to that equation, editorially we continue to break ground and set the pace for the other networks.

"We were not only the first to cover the Occupy movement but the first to cover it on a regular basis, and the first to incorporate it into our interviews with political figures. Even when that meant throwing production assistants and their handheld cameras in a cab to Zuccotti Park, our team set the agenda, and the other networks had to follow. Just as important: The editorial tone my senior producers helped to set enabled us to break away from formula. After he raided Occupy, I was able to call for the resignation of a conservative mayor in Bloomberg of New York. But when she did the same thing, I was also able to call for the resignation of a liberal mayor in [Jean] Quan of Oakland. The studio lights might go off, but the editorial illumination is better than ever."

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In addition, on Wednesday, Olbermann also released a statement to THR, blasting Current TV over their handling of the GOP primary, and the lack of his Countdown in the schedule. 

“I was not given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable conditions,” Olbermann said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “They know it and we know it. Telling half the story is wrong.”

But an internal memo from Current TV president David Bohrman obtained byTHR contends that Olbermann was asked to lead primary coverage.

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Cenk UygurJennifer Granholm and network co-founder Al Gore have been helming the network's election specials, called Politically Direct. And Tuesday, Olbermann'sCountdown was pre-empted for live coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

Olbermann said all along that he had planned to anchor his 8 p.m. program on Tuesday. And early in the evening he tweeted that he was “headed into the office now.”

Apparently, Bohrman, upon learning that Olbermann had assembled his staff for a show that would be pre-empted, sent a memo to Countdown staffers to clear up the “misunderstanding.”

“There will be NO stand-alone Countdown tonight. For those of you at work who might be preparing a program, I apologize your managers did not communicate this to you. See you back on the air tomorrow night,” wrote Bohrman. 

Read the full memo here

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