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Keith Olbermann breaks his silence to the new Hollywood Reporter magazine about his MSNBC exit and his new gig at Current TV, which could net him $100 million. In a sometimes explosive interview, he also details how Jeff Zucker turned on him at MSNBC, why he’s not talking to Rachel Maddow, and the surprise name who’ll be his substitute anchor. Below, his thoughts on Sarah Palin (“very stupid”), Rep. Anthony Weiner (“a photo is forever”) and more. As part of the piece, senior writer Marisa Guthrie asked Olbermann about his take on certain stories that have occurred while he has been off the air.
How do you feel about news operations chasing Sarah Palin around the country?
Most of the political media is pretty stupid. And she’s very stupid. She’s one of the few people in politics that most political writers and broadcasters can sincerely, legitimately look down on. This is my major complaint about journalism, let alone political journalism: We miss the larger picture. We’re obsessed with these tiny details. This garbage about Paul Revere is fascinating. [Palin was accused of flubbing a reference to Revere when she said in an extemporaneous interview: “… he who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms.”] And you want to say, nevermind Obama’s birth certificate, can I see your social studies attendance record from the seventh grade? Because honestly, people could have a better American history education from reading fortune cookies or Bazooka Joe bubble gum comic strips.
What do you think of the criminal charges against John Edwards?
I don’t have any idea about the specifics. I’ll just say this: After what John did to my friend Elizabeth, he’s on his own. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether or not he’s guilty in some legal way. She should have been the presidential nominee. She threw all her weight behind him and stuck with him even after there was evidence of his infidelity in a misguided but totally understandable attempt to get what he represented enacted in a political sense. And for him to continue with the deception, he will get no defense from me.
Did you wish you had been on air when Osama bin Laden was killed?
I can’t say that the thought didn’t cross my mind. But the idea that I was sitting there with my fist balled up and my teeth on my knuckles [saying], “Why aren’t I on television?” — often things will happen on a weekend, and it’s like, “Yeah, that’s really great coverage.” I do this five days a week. I’m exhausted.
Your former colleague Ed Schultz just completed a suspension from MSNBC for hurling a misogynistic insult at conservative Laura Ingraham on his radio show. Do you think he deserved the suspension?
You just can’t say that. It’s just inappropriate. And there are people defending him on the left. The TV job is the final factor, no pun intended. If you say something outrageous on the radio, of course they’d have to suspend you. I just don’t think that’s appropriate language. We’ve all traipsed that line — I’ve sometimes fallen over it. An insult is fine, even a colorful insult is fine. I made jokes about Rush Limbaugh’s size; that was inappropriate.
Are you relieved that Donald Trump is apparently not running for president?
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he needed some publicity later on and decided to re-enter.
What do you think of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) confession that he sent graphic pictures from his Twitter account?
As I once said about a publicity photo of me with a perm, complete with a part down the middle: A mistake is temporary. A photograph is forever.
For more candid revelations from Keith Olbermann, read the full THR cover story here.
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