Keith Olbermann Returns to 'Countdown,' Addresses Exile, Offers Three Apologies

Host says donation controversy was not a publicity stunt.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann opened on Tuesday night with an empty chair behind the anchor desk. Keith Olbermann crept into the frame stage-left, hands in pockets: "Oh, hi. So what's new?"

It was the MSNBC host's first night back since a two-day management-imposed exile for $7,200 worth of campaign donations to Democratic candidates.

Olbermann promised to address the incident further at the end of the broadcast. But he vehemently denied that the tempest in a teapot was a publicity stunt; as was suggested by some in the blogosphere.

"Of course," he added, "If I had known all this would happen, I would have done this years ago!"


At the end of the program, Olbermann offered three apologies: one for all headlines the controversy generated ("The front page of the New York Times without being dead or in jail or Charlie Sheen or something!"); a second for not knowing about the rule he violated (which needs "adapt to the realities" of 21st century media); and the third for naming Republican Jesse Kelly, the opponent of Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords to whose campaign Olbermann donated, one of his "worst" persons.

But he said he did not contribute to the campaigns of Giffords, fellow Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva and Kentucky's Jack Conway until after he had Grijalva on Countdown.

Olbermann added that he did not disclose the donations because he did not want to spur a windfall from viewers -- and here he took the opportunity to beat up on his rivals at Fox News.

"And then suddenly I'm fundraising for them passively or aggressively and we're accidentally Fox," he said.