Keith Olbermann Disputes Claims He Mistreated Former MSNBC Staffers

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Wesley Mann

The Current TV host shoots down a report alleging he bullied employees while working at his previous cable news network gig.

The headline-making tension between Keith Olbermann and the management of Current TV appears to have summoned one of the cable anchor's ex-employees out of the woodwork.

On Monday, an anonymous -- and alleged -- former staffer on MSNBC's Countdown provided an anti-Olbermann rant to the website Gawker, detailing claims of his off-camera antics and bad behavior toward co-workers.

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"Keith is the walking definition of a hostile work environment," the source was quoted as saying. "Countdown had a 75 (percent) staff turnover rate in the time I was there -- high even for the cable news business. Keith had people he liked, and people he didn't like, and there was no rhyme or reason to it. When he didn't like someone, he'd berate them and belittle their work until they left the show. Then he'd do the same to the next person on his s--t list. When someone he liked moved on, he'd take it out on the rest of us. If he got mad at someone for something specific (like not magically knowing he didn't want to be bothered at a certain time), he wouldn't acknowledge them for the rest of the day."

Among the other claims: he had temper tantrums; he iced out a colleague for wearing a perfume he didn't like; he wore unflattering suits to work but nobody could bring wardrobe issues to his attention because he had allegedly been "traumatized" by a childhood shopping incident.

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Olbermann -- who finally agreed to anchor Current's election coverage following a public clash over production values of his Countdown program and other gripes -- quickly weighed in on the Gawker post, calling the allegations "hilariously inaccurate" and the source "fake" on Twitter. Then he emailed the site directly for good measure.

"The turnover figure is laughably wrong," said Olbermann, who currently holds the title of chief news officer and an equity stake iin Current. "Of the top 20 staffers on Countdown when we started in 2003, 17 were still there the day I left. In fact, three of them went with me to Current, and one of them who'd left MSNBC rejoined me over here (his fourth separate stint working with and for me) -- all unlikely events if any of the stuff made up by your 'source' was true."

"As to the overall characterization of my conduct as an employer and employee," he continued, "I would point out again: prior to my Current gig I've had nine full time employers. Three have rehired me later in my career (CNN, MSNBC, ESPN) and three others asked me to come back but we couldn't work it out."

He added: "I will admit the traumatic shopping story is very, very funny. But you've been seriously punked here."