If you regularly tune in to Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, you may remember that Olbermann was mysteriously absent from the show for three days at the end of April. But Olbermann didn't just "have the night off," as David Shuster, his fill-in, said on the air three evenings in a row. According to a source inside MSNBC, it was a bizarre temper tantrum on Olbermann's part that led him to storm off the set in protest. Even stranger: The drama was all Ben Affleck's fault.Seems like a whole bunch of hypocrisy, right? And a few hours later, Cityfile released what appeared to be the smoking gun of damning evidence when they released a photo of Keith Olbermann from his own blog at a baseball game with his girlfriend, Katy Tur, and Jason Bateman with Keith looking happy as ever. But what if there was a perfectly reasonable explanation to all this? What if this actually all did make sense? Keith Olbermann states his argument below and while I called him out big time in the comments section of JC's blog before I saw this for I had visited Olbermann Watch and they had a link to the story so I had the advanced knowledge of it to comment before the show started. However, I'm thinking I might have been wrong...
Olbermann was not scheduled to take a vacation at the end of April. But he ended up missing three shows: Friday, April 17; Monday; April 20, and Tuesday, April 21. It's what happened on April 16, though, that prompted Olbermann to exit MSNBC's studios in such a rage.
According to a source at the network, Olbermann was livid when he learned that Rachel Maddow had booked Ben Affleck as a guest on her show. Olbermann, it turns out, had been interested in having Affleck on his show, too, and when he heard that Maddow's producers had secured the actor instead, he demanded that the interview be switched from Maddow's nine o'clock broadcast to his own an hour earlier. Maddow and her staff have been known to politely give in to Olbermann's whims in the past—it was Olbermann, after all, who helped bring Maddow to the network. This time, however, they didn't budge. (With ratings for Maddow's show a bit lackluster as of late, parting with an A-list celebrity guest isn't a decision to be made lightly.) Olbermann took the matter to senior management at MSNBC and NBC Universal and asked that they step in and "correct" the situation. That didn't happen, though, and Affleck went on Maddow's show as scheduled on Thursday, April 16. And Olbermann's three-day protest commenced the next day.
Update: Olbermann has issued an official statement on the matter: "That was my first opportunity to take even a long weekend to mourn my mother's death and deal with the many sad logistics subsequent to her sudden passing. The source of this story is a liar and those who spread it without seeking confirmation or reputation are beneath contempt."
Our Response: We were saddened to hear of Olbermann's loss and found his tribute to his mother deeply moving. But if that was the reason Olbermann took time off two weeks later, we can't imagine why Olbermann wouldn't have simply said as much. Furthermore, we find it hard to believe one of his colleagues at MSNBC—a respected journalist, no less—would have attributed his absence to the "flu/allergy season" if Olbermann had made the perfectly understandable decision take a few days to mourn his mother's passing.
The story on Shuster's Twitter feed did come up on Monday and Tuesday, right around the time that Keith Olbermann had been sick. But, there's something even more telling that I want to get to. Something that can prove Keith Olbermann's innocence right here and right now. No, this is not joking around and sarcasm. What that video did not show and what my DVR did catch was after Keith's "good night and good luck" he did the usual and tossed it to Rachel Maddow whose show airs at 9 on NBC. And they usually have a 5-second conversation about what Keith either ended with and/or what is coming up with Maddow. This time, it was about what Keith had just talked about in hiw new "WTF?!? Moment" segment, the segment on the show he donated to this "gossip" story as he called it.
Here is the transcript prepared by me of the conversation that took place immediately after the paper toss to the time Rachel took the air and started her show.
OLBERMANN: "And now with more on the straight line drawn today between the torture of an Iraqi secret police chief and the suggestion by then vice-president Dick Cheney's office to go ahead and waterboard that man, ladies and gentlemen, here is my friend, Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good evening Keith. Thank you, and thanks for taking time to address that rather unfortunateness online today. It was big of you to do that and I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Oh, thank you, and thank you for your friendship, Rach.
MADDOW: All right, thanks.
However, it is curious to note that Rachel Maddow had a very telling expression after Keith thanked her for her friendship. And thanks to the picture taking capabilites of my laptop from a paused DVR, here it is!
As an avid fan of the show Lie To Me, I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that that is a genuine smile from Maddow. And while it may not necessarily look like such because I could not stop my DVR at the precise right millisecond that I wanted to (I've been playing with it for 30 minutes and I can't pause my DVR perfectly to get it perfect and believe me, there was a perfect moment), I can tell you that Rachel made that reaction as Keith was saying "thank you for your friendship". Now had she been trying to put on a fake smile, it may have taken here a second or so to think of what Keith said and to put on a smile. But no, her smile was instantaneous with the words. Had there been a fight or an argument, there might have even been anger or contempt from Maddow as Keith was thanking her for her friendship. No such sign existed. If I could pull the video, believe me, I would, but alas, I don't know how to do such.
I'll have the NHL Playoffs schedule up later today (much later, as I really need to do this little thing most of you know as sleep; you see, it's now 3:24 AM and I have not slept yet tonight) with TV channels and announcers included. So stay tuned for that and I might even do a post actually pimping the NBA Playoffs. Maybe. Just because there are 2 Game 7s, it does not mean that anything compelling will actually happen.