MSNBC Removes Olbermann, Matthews From Anchor Roles

NEW YORK (AP) -- MSNBC is replacing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as co-anchors of political night coverage with David Gregory, and will use the two newsmen as commentators.

The change reflects tensions between the freewheeling, opinionated MSNBC and the impartial newsgatherers at NBC News. Throughout the primaries and summer, MSNBC argued that Olbermann and Matthews could serve as dispassionate anchors on political news nights and that viewers would accept them in that role, but things fell apart during the conventions.

Gregory, the veteran Washington hand, will anchor MSNBC's coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates and election night, network spokesman Jeremy Gaines said Sunday. The change was first reported by The New York Times.

The tipping point appears to have come during the GOP convention when Olbermann criticized MSNBC for showing a Sept. 11-themed video prepared by the Republicans.

MSNBC executives, who had publicly defended their anchors' roles while privately monitoring them throughout the political season, made the change over the weekend after discussions with Olbermann. Despite the controversy around him, Olbermann has been a hero with left-leaning viewers and keyed MSNBC's growth among coveted young viewers.

During her acceptance speech last week, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin talked about the "Washington elite" not accepting her qualifications for the job. Some delegates on the convention floor began chanting, "N-B-C, N-B-C."

Olbermann began to have difficulty keeping his opinions in check, or simply stopped trying.

He sarcastically dismissed GOP pundit Pat Buchanan on the air after Buchanan said the Republicans had been enlivened by the entrance of a conservative Republican.

"Those reading US Weekly with the picture of her and her youngest daughter with the word `scandal' written across it won't be so happy," Olbermann said.

He expressed little sympathy at another point when GOP anger at rumors over the Internet about Palin were being discussed.

"We'll see if people feel sorry for unfounded rumors on the Internet," he said. "If that's the case, Senator Obama's probably standing up and cheering and waiting for people to feel sorry for him."

Perhaps most embarrassing, Joe Scarborough was discussing positive developments in John McCain's campaign at one point when Olbermann was heard on an offstage microphone saying: "Jesus, Joe, why don't you get a shovel?"

Scarborough, a former Republican congressman and host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," got in another nasty on-air exchange with MSNBC reporter David Shuster, and Matthews snapped at Olbermann on-air when it appeared Olbermann was criticizing him for talking too much.

All the drama made MSNBC a punch line when top NBC anchor Brian Williams appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" last week. "Is there no control?" Stewart asked him. "`Is it `Lord of the Flies?'"

A sheepish Williams said that every family has a dynamic of its own.

"But does MSNBC have to be the Lohans?" Stewart said.

Olbermann was in Denver during the Democratic national convention, but performed his co-hosting duties for the GOP convention in a New York studio. NBC President Steve Capus said the decision was not political, that Olbermann had been sent back to anchor coverage of Hurricane Gustav.

MSNBC's decision comes just before Olbermann's "Countdown" show is set to air, on Monday, his interview with Barack Obama. That will put Olbermann in direct competition with his nemesis, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, who interviewed Obama last week and is airing a portion of it Monday in the same 8 p.m. EDT time slot.

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  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Sep 11, 2008 at 07:22 AM
    Voter, she has been smoking something. During something as critical as an election year, you will have the liberals pandering to party lines. Fox news is not fair, why? They report both sides of the story and they don't like it. NBC reports the API version only. That makes it the facts. Over the last few nights I watched Obama on O'Reilly and thought he was very professional in his questions and allowing Obama's responses. I am sure the liberals didn't see it that way. Bill asked Barrack real questions and was given real answers. I don't see the right wing side on his program. He seems to go after both sides. Liberals don't like it because he goes after their side and thats just wrong..voter, she was smoking seeds left over from Hanna that didn't grow.
  • by voter Location: nc on Sep 10, 2008 at 03:59 PM
    vickie; it would seem your judgement is severely impaired. put down the pipe, walk towards the light.
  • by Chris Location: Greenville on Sep 10, 2008 at 02:36 PM
    Olbermann is a loose cannon and he is the best.
  • by Red State Location: Washington Co. on Sep 10, 2008 at 06:31 AM
    At least there is still at least one news outlet in the country that doesn't actively work for the Democrat party. Better, editor?
  • by Red State Location: Wasington Co. on Sep 10, 2008 at 06:03 AM
    Vicki, who at Fox news called a Republican a Democrat or vice-versa? I'd like some specific examples of that. I take offense with your comments. I am a Fox news viewer (and a CNN, CBS, ABC, and other news viewer) and I certainly "have the IQ" to know or find out if representatives are Dem or Rep, if I care to know. The difference is, I and most Fox news viewers do not care which side they're on. If they're corrupt, they need to be run out of town on a rail. That includes Democrats and Republicans. If Fox did no research and were "constantly making false statements" as you say, they would be called on it by other networks and replaced as Matthews and Olberman were (I read that Tom Brokaw demanded the change). Not to mention their ratings wouldn't survive.

  • by Vicki Location: Greenville on Sep 9, 2008 at 03:59 PM
    Fox News is the reason there are so many ignorant people in this country. They think if they repeat anything often enough, even if it's totally false, that people will believe it. Guess what, you idiots do! They don't do any research at all and are constantly making false statements, such as identifying Republican Senators or Congressmen as Democrats when they are involved in a scandal. They know most of their viewers don't have the IQ to know the difference.
  • by Pun-dont Location: Greenville on Sep 9, 2008 at 01:31 PM
    There is no such thing as unbiased in any of the 24/7 Cable/Satellite News coverage. At that includes the 'Right Leaning' Fox News and the 'Left Leaning' MSNBC. It is all about ratings and saying what viewers want to hear vs. what is accurate. I will give MSNBC points for reconizing that they needed to make a change. I am not holding my breath for Fox to follow suit. If you really want an unbiased and accurate understanding of Politics and those who cover it, I invite you to watch the Daily Show with John Stewart.
  • by Rob Location: NC on Sep 9, 2008 at 01:00 PM
    Red State-You are absolutely right. If PMSNBC is balanced, than I have ocean front property in Iowa to sell you. None of the corporate owned networks is balanced by a long shot. I really used to think that PMSNBC was more Democrat slanted, but I guess I was wrong. That's one of the many reasons why I don't watch corporate owned, propoganda fueled networks such as this.
  • by Red State Location: Wasington Co. on Sep 9, 2008 at 10:43 AM
    Rob, come on. Seriously. Even you can't think that MSNBC was balanced?
  • by Jesse Location: Greenville on Sep 9, 2008 at 09:31 AM
    This is the reason for the differentiation between having a news anchor on a show and a guest political analyst. The news anchors report the news and then the political analysts give us their "professional" opinion. Some of today's anchors would have been better served by being an analyst since they want to interject their opinions where they're not needed or asked for.
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