All aghast over the narcissistic, bloviating, real head of MSNBC:
Keith Olbermann was having dinner with his manager at an Upper East Side restaurant, chewing over their battle to lift his suspension at MSNBC, when Phil Griffin called.
Michael Price stepped out of the Atlantic Grill to talk to MSNBC’s president, leaving his client with a platter of 18 oysters. It was Sunday, Nov. 7, and Price informed Griffin that if they couldn’t resolve their differences quickly, Olbermann would take his complaints public by accepting invitations from Good Morning America, David Letterman, and Larry King.
“Why are you putting us in the position where you’re daring us to do this?” Price demanded, his voice rising.
“If you go on GMA, I will fire Keith,” Griffin shot back. Such a move was clearly grounds for dismissal.
The manager returned to the restaurant. He and Olbermann, who had been pushing hard to end the suspension the next day, discussed whether they would be burning bridges by carrying out the threat. Minutes later, their phones buzzed with emails from reporters, asking about a statement that NBC had just released.
Olbermann, it said, would be allowed to return to his prime-time show on Tuesday—a day later than he had wanted.
Price called Griffin again. “What compelled you to do that in that way?” he asked.
“We are at war,” Griffin responded.
If so, it was a war that had spread beyond the principal combatants to many of the journalists who work at NBC and MSNBC. From the moment Olbermann was found to have donated money to three Democratic candidates, there has been a deepening sense of anger and frustration among his colleagues, according to interviews with eight knowledgeable sources. These sources, who declined to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the situation, say that several of NBC’s front-line stars, including Tom Brokaw, have expressed concern to management that Olbermann has badly damaged MSNBC’s reputation for independence. (NBC and MSNBC executives declined to comment, and Olbermann declined to be interviewed.)
Network staffers use phrases like “scorched-earth policy” and “totally narcissistic response” to describe how Olbermann has dealt with criticism of his political donations. A recurring theme is that he has made it impossible for MSNBC to argue that it is journalistically different from Fox News, which has no prohibition against political donations by such commentators and talk-show hosts as Sean Hannity and Karl Rove. The word hypocrisy has frequently been aimed at Olbermann.