Keith Olbermann was fired from Current TV for "serial breach of contract" last week, for which he's promised a lawsuit. Al Gore and Joel Hyatt–backed Current TV have braced for it, having already retained legal and crisis public relations firm Fabiani & Lehane. Olbermann has lashed out on his Twitter account and e-mails have emerged, telling the tale of a contentious relationship between employer and talent.
On Tuesday, Olbermann visited The Late Show with David Letterman to air his grievances. Letterman kept the mood light, offering at the beginning of the interview a gag gift — a business card with a rotating field for Olbermann's employer. Before joining Current, the bespectacled commentator hosted his show Countdown for MSNBC. It ended badly there.
Olbermann, who's been replaced at Current by Eliot Spitzer, admitted to having feelings of regret about his arrangement with Current as early as last July, only ten days after beginning. But he said he didn't stop trying to make it work and certainly didn't sabotage the network, a charge that's been leveled against him.
After settling in, Letterman gave Olbermann the opportunity to describe how a major talent acquisition turned into a public feud and litigation.
Olbermann began with a sentiment he expressed previously on Twitter: "For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one."
"I screwed up," Olbermann told Letterman. "I screwed up really big on this. Let's just start there. I thought we could do this. It's my fault that it didn't succeed in the sense that I didn't think the whole thing through."
In effect, he's apologizing for getting in bed with an inadequate partner. If nothing else, Olbermann is confident in his abilities, for which Current TV agreed to pay him $10 million a year for five years. This telling exchange appears in the clip below:
"I didn't say, 'You know, if you buy a $10 million chandelier, you should have a house to put it in. Just walking around with a $10 million chandelier isn't going to do anybody a lot of good, and it's not going to do any good to the chandelier.
"And then it turned out we didn't have a lot to put the house on to put the chandelier in, or a building permit, and I, I should have known that. And it is, it is my fault at heart."
"You're the chandelier?" Letterman asked sheepishly.
"I'm the chandelier. You are always pointing out how big my head is, so I think it's a suitable analogy."
But now he's a chandelier without any studio to hang in.
“Where will you go now?” Letterman asked. “Well, I think you guys still have a car for me afterwards. I think I’ll just go home,” Olbermann joked. “I did notice there’s some nice lines out here in front of the theater every afternoon and this would be a good place to set up a shoe-shine stand.”