Keith Olbermann



Keith Olbermann (born January 27, 1959 in New York City) is an American news anchor, commentator and radio sportscaster. He currently hosts Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, an hour-long nightly newscast that counts down the top news stories of the day along with commentary by Olbermann. He is also on The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN radio.

Olberman's family moved to Westchester County from New York City, and he attended schools in Hastings-on-Hudson as well as Hackley School in Tarrytown. After graduating from Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, New Jersey, which he attended with fellow commentator Bill Maher, Olbermann earned his Bachelor of Science degree in communications arts from Cornell University in 1979, while serving as sports director for WVBR, a student-run commercial radio station in Ithaca, New York.

Olbermann began his professional career at UPI and RKO Radio before joining the nascent CNN in 1981. In 1984, he briefly worked as a sports anchor at WCVB-TV in Boston, before heading to Los Angeles to work at KTLA and KCBS. His work there earned him eleven Golden Mike Awards, and he was named Best Sportscaster by the California Associated Press three times.

In 1992, he joined ESPN’s SportsCenter, a position he would hold until 1997. He often co-hosted SportsCenter with Dan Patrick, the two becoming a popular anchor team. Olbermann quickly became known for his wit, reporting style, and his tight chemistry with co-anchor Patrick. In 1995, Olbermann won a Cable ACE award for Best Sportscaster while co-anchoring the “big show” as he called it (often referencing the Sunday night SportsCenter). Olbermann would later co-author a book with Patrick called The Big Show about their experiences working at SportsCenter. On the May 10, 2004 episode for Countdown, Olbermann claimed that the short-lived ABC dramedy "Sports Night" was based on his time on SportsCenter with Patrick.

While at ESPN, Olbermann was instrumental in helping to launch ESPN Radio and ESPN2, most notably opening the first program on the latter network—designed at its outset to be the younger, hipper ESPN—by stating, “Welcome to the end of our careers.”

In 1997, Olbermann abruptly left ESPN, under a cloud of controversy regarding the reasons behind his departure that to this day remain unanswered. The sudden nature of his departure led towards a floodgate of rumors circulating regarding the reason he left, especially after it was revealed that Olbermann departed from ESPN on bad terms and that Olbermann purposely "burned his bridges" with the network's top brass as a result of his personal discontent with the network.

Olbermann and ESPN were long to reconcile, which led to Olbermann being publicly snubbed by the channel when he was not asked to participate in ESPN's 20th Anniversary "Reunion Week" Celebration of SportsCenter, which featured past SportsCenter hosts returning to host episodes of the show.

Olbermann now participates daily on ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick Show, marking the end of his long-running dispute with ESPN management.

In 1997, Olbermann left ESPN to host his own primetime show on MSNBC, named The Big Show. The news variety program covered three or four different topics in a one-hour broadcast. Olbermann also occasionally hosted the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News, and he was the co-pre-game host (along with Hannah Storm) of NBC Sports’ coverage of the 1997 World Series.

When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in 1998, he began hosting another news program, White House in Crisis. Olbermann says he became frustrated when the Lewinsky story constantly consumed his regular show. In 1998 he would state that his work at MSNBC would "make me ashamed, make me depressed, make me cry." He left MSNBC after 17 months to return to sportscasting, although he has said that even if Lewinsky never happened, he still would have left to return to sports.

In 1998, Olbermann became an anchor and executive producer for The Keith Olbermann Evening News, a sportscast similar to SportsCenter which aired weekly on Sunday evenings on cable’s Fox Sports Net. While at Fox, Olbermann was again a host of the World Series and also Fox Broadcasting’s baseball Game of the Week. On June 17, 1998, Olbermann's mother, Maria, was hit in the head with a baseball while attending a Yankees game when Yankees second baseman, Chuck Knoblauch, made an errant throw that ended up going into the stands.

Olbermann left Fox Sports in 2001 for “other opportunities” and kept a relatively low profile. He worked for a time as a regular contributor on CNN and provided twice-daily sports commentary on the ABC Radio Network. The September 11, 2001 attacks provided the impetus for Olbermann to return to full-fledged news reporting. He won an Edward R. Murrow Award for reporting from the site of the attacks for 40 days on ABC Radio and Los Angeles radio station KFWB.

Olbermann wrote a weekly column for Salon.com from July 2002 until being rehired by MSNBC in early 2003. On his return to MSNBC, he served as a substitute host on Nachman and as an anchor for the network's coverage of the war in Iraq. His own show, Countdown, debuted shortly thereafter on March 31, 2003 in the 8:00 p.m. ET time slot previously held by programs hosted by Phil Donahue and, briefly, Lester Holt. Olbermann uses Edward R. Murrow's signature sign-off "Good night and good luck" to end his show. On October 13, 2004, Olbermann launched Bloggermann, his Countdown weblog, hosted on MSNBC.com. Olbermann leverages the open format of the blog to expound on facts or ideas alluded to in the broadcast, to offer personal musings and reactions, and to break news at odd hours.

Olbermann and Chris Matthews’ Hardball, also on MSNBC, tied for 1st place on MSNBC (and 21st place in all of cable news) in February 2006 with 400,000 viewers each for the month, according to Nielsen Media Research. CNN and FOX News Channel’s top programs for the month were Larry King Live with 901,000 viewers and The O'Reilly Factor with over 2.2 million viewers. Olbermann's ratings are often 4th for cable news in his timeslot, behind O'Reilly at Fox News, Paula Zahn at CNN, and Nancy Grace at CNN Headline News, and his is the 12th-most watched nightly cable news program overall. However, the show's ratings have increased by 41% in the last year. In the first quarter of 2006, the ratings for Countdown surpassed CNN's Paula Zahn Now in the 25-54 demographic, marking the first time in five years an MSNBC show has beaten a CNN show in prime time for this demographic. In April 2006, Olbermann's ratings continued to climb, showing a 35% increase in overall viewers from the previous month's ratings, while O'Reilly's had dropped to "his worst month in nearly five years among viewers age 25 to 54." Recently, following the show's climb in the ratings preceding April, Countdown's ratings have slid, dropping 32% to 106,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic as of June 2006, placing Countdown in 4th for the timeslot.

In June 2005, Olbermann returned to ESPN Radio every Friday, co-hosting with his friend and former colleague Dan Patrick’s three-hour weekday program. On November 28, 2005, Olbermann’s co-hosting duties on the show expanded to Weekdays, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post notes Olbermann's comment that his ongoing criticism of the Bush administration places him "in the same part of the ballpark as a lot of liberals". However, Olbermann has addressed accusations of liberal bias by claiming that he would be equally critical of a Democratic president who had invited criticism by his actions: "I mean, no one in 1998, no one accused me of being a liberal in 1998 because I was covering the Clinton-Lewinsky story. And whatever I had to do about it, I tried to be fair and honest and as accurate and as informed as possible, and allow my viewer to be the same way. And nowadays it’s the same thing. And now all of a sudden I’m a screaming liberal."

A study by the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, of Countdown's The Worst Person in the World segment from June 30, 2005 to June 23, 2006 claimed the segment shows Countdown's liberal bias when it found that of the approximately 600 nominees in total, 174 were conservative and 23 were liberals. Olbermann interpreted the results differently when on June 28 he named Media Research Center as number three on The Worst Person in the World and thanked them for confirming that the segment was apolitical because 71% of the nominees were not conservative.

Olbermann's show on MSNBC occupies the same time slot as Bill O’Reilly's show on the Fox News Channel. Olbermann has repeatedly named O’Reilly his “Worst Person in the World", while O’Reilly has petitioned for the ouster of Olbermann from MSNBC and the return of Phil Donahue to Olbermann’s time slot saying that Donahue's ratings far exceeded Olbermann's.

The feud blossomed with Olbermann's public celebration of O'Reilly's harassment suit by Andrea Mackris, a former Fox employee; he jokingly kept track of money his viewers pledged to buy the tapes from Mackris, and ran a "Save the Tapes" campaign. Olbermann had continued to feature the suit and its details in his comments on O'Reilly, specifically references to falafels and loofahs, which O'Reilly got confused while allegedly harassing Mackris.

In November 2005, both Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly attended a charity fundraiser thrown by New York Yankees manager Joe Torre. Although both were in the same room at the same time Olbermann noted that "O'Reilly never got within 20 feet of me" and that, "every time I looked up, O'Reilly would suddenly look down". Olbermann also alleged that FOX News had been distributing his phone number and that someone had hacked into his e-mail.

In March 2006, O’Reilly dropped a caller from his live radio show, seemingly for mentioning Olbermann's name. O'Reilly accused the caller of being part of a larger group of individuals which had been calling O'Reilly with the sole purpose of mentioning Olbermann.[citation needed] The caller said "I like to listen to you during the day. I think Keith Olbermann..." when O'Reilly cut in, responding to "Mike" as follows:

We have your own phone number and we're going to turn it over to Fox security and you'll be getting a little visit. When you call us, ladies and gentlemen, just so you know, we do have your phone number, and if you say anything untoward, obscene or anything like that, FOX security then will contact your local authorities and you will be held accountable. Fair?

In fact, it is Westwood One who broadcasts O'Reilly's radio show and not FOX. Olbermann noted that it would be unlawful for O'Reilly to send anyone to a listener's home for purposes of intimidation.

On a subsequent Countdown, Olbermann had "Mike" on as a guest to discuss the incident, and he denied that he had said anything obscene before O'Reilly cut him off. He did state that he was one of a group of individuals from the web site "Calling All Wingnuts" who had decided to call into the O'Reilly show to voice their disagreement. He mentioned that a woman from that group was upset by a call from the same "Fox News Security" man.

While on vacation in July 2006, Olbermann made a guest appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno where he explained pictures of himself wearing an O'Reilly mask and giving a Nazi salute, saying he did this because O'Reilly at least three times in 2006 defended the Nazis.

As Olbermann has gone on in recent weeks (His August 30, Sept 5, and Sept 11, 2006 commentaries) to directly confronting the Bush administration, in a recent "Worst Person in the World" segment, commented "I'm sorry, Bill, I can't play with you right now. I have bigger fish to fry."

While on vacation in July of 2006, Olbermann was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. On the show, he was asked to comment on a photo taken at the recent Television Critics Association press tour that had appeared on the Drudge Report which showed him holding a Bill O'Reilly mask and giving a Nazi salute to the audience. Olbermann joked that he had been waving to a friend, and added that "Bill O‘Reilly has defended the Nazis from World War II on three separate occasions," a reference in part to O'Reilly's repeated, incorrect assertion that Allied forces had massacred German troops at Malmedy.

On July 28, 2006, the Anti-Defamation League sent an open letter to Keith Olbermann at MSNBC stating, "We are deeply dismayed by your ongoing use of the Nazi "Sieg Heil" salute, both on your program and in public appearances..." The letter explains that Olbermann's use of the salute prompted many complaints from its members including Holocaust survivors and that any use of it "serves to trivialize the Holocaust and the six million Jews and others...who died". The letter closes by asking Olbermann to reconsider his use of the Nazi salute in the future.

Olbermann wrote an e-mail to a viewer stating, "Rita's nice, but dumber than a suitcase of rocks." Olbermann has since apologized for the email saying he had been stupid and should have known better, but Cosby did reply saying: "Keith got it wrong. I'm not that nice."

On August 30, 2006, Olbermann responded to a speech that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made to the American Legion. In that speech, Rumsfeld warned of "a new type of fascism", and compared his administration's warnings with "those who warned about a coming crisis" prior to World War II, stating that the Nazi appeasers possessed "a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion." Then he said "But some seem not to have learned history’s lessons." Later in the speech, he stated that "any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong" could "weaken the ability of free societies to persevere".

Olbermann decried the speech, asserting that Rumsfeld was comparing the Bush administration's detractors to the Nazi appeasers prior to World War II, thereby accusing any who disagree with the President of "moral or intellectual confusion" and weakening free society. Olbermann argued that the Bush administration was actually comparable to the British government of Neville Chamberlain that appeased the Nazis, stating that "It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality." He accused Rumsfeld of "demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill." With regard to Rumsfeld's assertion that the United States faces a "new type of fascism," Olbermann said, "As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. This country faces a new type of fascism -- indeed." Comparing Rumsfeld's stance on dissent to that of Joseph McCarthy, Olbermann concluded with a quotation from Edward R. Murrow.

Olbermann is a dedicated baseball fan and historian of the sport, with membership in the Society for American Baseball Research. He argues that New York Giants baseball player Fred Merkle should not be denied inclusion into the Baseball Hall of Fame because of a baserunning mistake. He contributed the foreword to More Than Merkle (ISBN 0-8032-1056-6), a book requesting amnesty for Merkle's error.

Olbermann also criticized documentarian Ken Burns, pointing out dozens of claimed inaccuracies and anachronisms in Burns’ television series Baseball. In high school, Olbermann compiled an extensive list of first and third base coaches in baseball history. This documentation now sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Olbermann at one time opposed Pete Rose being admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame but recently changed his stance, due to the steroid scandal in Major League Baseball.

On Monday, August 8, 2005, the day following Peter Jennings’s death from lung cancer, Olbermann revealed on-air that he had a benign fibrous tumor removed from his palate just 10 days earlier. In an explicit monologue, he attributed his tumor (and the resulting fear and pain) directly to his 27-year habit of smoking pipes and cigars. He vigorously urged his viewers not to wait until they see symptoms to quit. "Do whatever you have to do to stop smoking — now. While it’s easier."

This marked the beginning of "I Quit," once a recurring segment on Countdown which offered anti-smoking tips and encouragement. On August 16, 2005, Olbermann’s colleague at NBC Mike Taibbi joined him for "I Quit" to discuss kicking the habit.

* He appeared in a cameo as himself in an episode of NBC’s Surface.

* He appeared in a series of television commercials for the Boston Market restaurant chain in 1997, in which he tells a bunch of Calvin Klein-type models - contemplating empty, burning sensations inside - to "Eat something."

* A self-described fan of the FOX animated television sitcom Family Guy, he announced in June 2006 on the Dan Patrick Show that he recorded some voice tracks to be used in an upcoming episode.

* Appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, which once again involved his disputes with Bill O'Reilly.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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