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Keith Olbermann, Happy at Long Last

April 6, 2008 8:45 PM

Much was made last week of Keith Olbermann’s fifth anniversary as anchor of MSNBC’s “Countdown”—a far longer arrangement than his 1997-98 stint at MSNBC, which was abruptly ended by his distaste for the Monica Lewinsky-President Clinton saga.

Politically inclined comic Janeane Garofalo and documentarian Ken Burns were among those at the celebration, held on competitor CNN’s home turf at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. Inside the private room at Landmarc restaurant, the party poster read, “Party @ 7. Beat CNN @ 8.”


NBC Universal President-CEO Jeff Zucker, NBC News President Steve Capus and NBC News VP Phil Griffin took some proud and playful shots at Mr. Olbermann (who was happy to return the favor to his bosses) during the program, which was a reminder of how funny the truth can be.

Later, Blink asked the “Countdown” anchor if he could have lasted the five years if George W. Bush had not been president and the target of so much Olbermann verbiage. He said he thought he could have, for a number of reasons: He’d gotten daily sports out of his system during a shorter-than-expected gig with Fox Sports and he’d come back to the NBC-MSNBC family in 2001 with everyone knowing which of everyone else’s buttons not to push.

He said everyone seemed to agree it was time to try his idea of a “21st-century newscast that people will stick around to watch.” That worked out given the show’s flexibility to let someone else do “four or five minutes worth of, you know, Michael Jackson stuff”—basically anything he didn’t want to cover. “We had a backup plan. We never used it, because there was a lot of goodwill created by then. More than anything else, I think that’s what contributed to the change. That and just growing up,” Mr. Olbermann said. So would he actually describe himself as happy these days? “Oh yes, yeah, very much so. And I like it large-carload lots. Yeah,” he said.

—Michele Greppi


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