Bill Carter in The New York Times reports:
Keith Olbermann, the highest-rated host on MSNBC, announced abruptly on the air Friday night that he is leaving “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” immediately.
The host, who has had a stormy relationship with the management of the network for some time, especially since he was suspended for two days last November, came to an agreement with NBC’s corporate management late this week to settle his contract and step down.
In a closing statement on his show, Mr. Olbermann said simply that it would be the last edition of the program. He offered no explanation other than on occasion, the show had become too much for him.
Mr. Olbermann thanked his viewers for their enthusiastic support of a show that had “gradually established its position as anti-establishment.”
In a statement, MSNBC said : “MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
MSNBC announced that “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell would replace “Countdown” at 8 p.m., with “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz taking Mr. O’Donnell’s slot at 10 p.m. Mr. Olbermann did not discuss any future plans, but NBC executives said one term of his settlement will keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time.
....According to several senior network executives, NBC’s management had been close to firing Mr. Olbermann on previous occasions, most recently in November after he revealed that he had made donations to several Democratic candidates during the 2010 congressional elections — one of them, coincidentally, was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has been the subject of many of his recent shows after being shot in an assassination attempt in Tucson on Jan. 8.