The Cutline

Current says Keith Olbermann refused to anchor Iowa caucus coverage

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
The Cutline

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Olbermann visits "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," June 2011. (Jason Kempin/Getty)

Analyses of Tuesday's Iowa caucuses are the top of most news sites right now--including Current TV's homepage, which features images of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich above a video featuring former U.S. vice president and Current co-founder Al Gore breaking down the results. One image conspicuously absent from the page: Keith Olbermann.

Olbermann, the host of Current's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" and listed on the masthead as the network's chief news officer, was supposed to be on air Tuesday night, assuring a concerned Twitter follower earlier in the day that he was "headed into the office now in fact."

But a few hours later, Olbermann announced he would not, in fact, be on the air.

"So as not to mislead," Olbermann wrote on Twitter, "I am informed Countdown will not be on tonight. I must defer on all questions to [Current CEO] @JoelHyatt @AlGore and @Current."

According to the network, however, Olbermann informed them.

"We asked Keith to be the sole anchor and executive producer of our primary and caucus coverage beginning tonight," a spokeswoman said in statement Wednesday. "Unfortunately, he declined to anchor or participate." (The same statement was given in a Current chat room on Tuesday night, as reported by Politico.)

The spokeswoman declined to discuss the details of the apparent disagreement. Olbermann did not respond to Twitter messages from Yahoo News seeking further comment, but gave a statement to the Hollywood Reporter: "I was not given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable conditions. They know it and we know it. Telling half the story is wrong."

Gore joined Current's Cenk Uygur and Jennifer Granholm to anchor the network's Iowa coverage instead of Olbermann.

Tension appeared to have been building between Olbermann and Current brass in recent weeks. In late December, the New York Times' Media Decoder noted that Olbermann--who was hired by Current last February--was absent from two post-debate special reports that month. (One unnamed executive described Olbermann as "disgruntled.")

A rift between Olbermann and his upper management is, of course, nothing new. In fact, at this point it should be expected.

Olbermann--who famously clashed with ESPN executives when he was an "SportsCenter" anchor--left MSNBC in a huff last January following a dispute with network brass.

"My manager and I had long discussed the prospects of going somewhere else," Olbermann told Rolling Stone last year. "We thought there's got to be another network that is looking for a new identity and sees the same opportunity we do. We figured it might take some time--but then, 'Ring ring. Keith, this is Al Gore.'"

Olbermann again assured followers on Wednesday that his show would be on tonight, at 8 p.m., as scheduled.

Stay tuned.

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