Conservative media are immensely enjoying the legal combat which erupted last week between Keith Olbermann and Al Gore’s Current TV cable network. The lawsuits and countersuits have prompted headlines like “Epic Ego Fail” to describe Olbermann. But Gore, too, is coming in for ridicule as shown by the Internet illustrations above. “Would anyone like some popcorn as two of the biggest meatheads in cable news duke it out?” wrote Breitbart.com. “One behaves as though he invented broadcasting, the other claims he invented the Internet.” Still another right-wing article hypes the battle between Gore and “favorite lefty TV spokesboor” Olbermann, even claiming the day Olbermann sued the employer (April 5th) “will henceforth be known among conservatives as ‘National Schadenfreude Day’. … Keith is dissing Al as a goof, which makes Keith what kind of doof for being suckered by him?” For that matter, what kind of dork goes on Letterman and describes himself as “a $10 million chandelier” while detailing what is basically a run-of-the-mill employment dispute. Which prompted the right-wing Washington Times to snark in a headline: “Yes, Olbermann is like a $10 million chandelier: Fragile and vastly overpriced.” Even more to the point, Olbermann’s $70 million lawsuit and Current’s countersuit over his $50 million TV contract confirms conservatives’ worst stereotypes about the left-wing media. It turns out they really are limousine liberals: among examples of Olbermann’s misbehavior, Current cites more than $50,000 spent among 8 limousine companies. And so on.
Much to the glee of the GOP, the legal battle also lays bare the dysfunction inside Current TV run by the former Democraic Vice President Al Gore and his longtime pal Joel Hyatt, who was 2000’s National Finance Chair for the Democratic Party. Liberals wondering why the channel doesn’t get more audience traction only need to read Olbermann’s legal complaint for the answers. As its intro says: “After being enticed to leave MSNBC and come to Current with promises of editorial control, freedom from corporate influence, and the professional support to produce a high caliber political commentary show of the type his viewers have come to expect, Keith Olbermann was disheartened to discover Al Gore, Joel Hyatt, and the management of Current are no more than dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives.” In actuality Olbermann’s reps made it clear before the lawsuit was filed that Camp Keith’s ire isn’t directed that much at Gore. Instead the full frontal attack is reserved for Hyatt. Olbermann privately and now publicly portrays the attorney/businessman/broadcasting partner of Gore’s since 2004 as not just an amateur mogul but also a professional screwup who not only leads Gore around by the nose but also led the anti-Keith campaign at Current. None of it’s a pretty picture. Because if they can’t even run their own channel then how in hell are they supposed to compete against Roger Ailes or Rush Limbaugh. No wonder progressives aren’t watching. So why shouldn’t conservatives be gleeful?
Last Friday, Current TV responded within 24 hours to Keith Olbermann’s $70 million lawsuit over his firing and accusations of mismanagement, bungling, breach of contract and other claims against the network. Like Olbermanan’s lawsuit, Current’s counterclaims don’t pull any punches (which you can read here) against the former Countdown With Keith Olbermann anchor and his Olbermann Media Empire Inc.
Zeroing in on Olbermann’s admission to David Letterman that “I screwed up”, Current’s opening volley says its former anchor “apparently forgot what he said, filing a frivolous complaint riddled with falsehoods and distortions in which he refused to take any responsibility whatsoever for that termination.” Current contends there were many material breaches of contract by Olbermann yet it bent over backward to accommodate him “simply to keep the peace. Nothing has worked, leaving Current with no choice but to terminate the agreement and to end its one-sided relationship with Olbermann.” Now it seeks a determination by the court that the network doesn’t have to pay him another dime. Why? Because he has “already been paid handsomely for showing up sporadically and utterly failing to keep up his end of the bargain.”
The countersuit lays out its version of dealings with Olbermann in what it intended to be “a long-term investment.” Current claims that contract provisions called for Olbermann to “meaningfully consult” with the network on business decisions and marketing and “to collaborate … and participate in promotional activities”. Instead, the suit continues, Olbermann “failed to deliver … and waged a campaign to breach, undermine, frustrate” the company’s endeavors. The countersuit alleges that Olbermann leaked financial terms of his Current agreement to the media, failed to work with Current to promote the network, and was absent without authorization repeatedly — 19 of 41 working days in January and February alone. Current also alleges that Olbermann refused to participate in the 2012 caucus and primary election coverage specials, then “changed his mind on the eve of the Iowa caucuses”.
Current claims that instead of working Olbermann “devoted his remaining energy to cataloguing and complaining about his dissatisfaction with production problems at Current”. Among examples of Olbermann’s misbehavior, Current cites more than $50,000 spent among 8 limousine companies and the purchase of a $5,300 desk for Countdown. Also many emails complaining about Current management’s incompetence or notifying execs that “I am not available” to discuss issues about Countdown‘s set. Current also points to an email from Countdown‘s studio landlord about Olbermann throwing a glass mug against part of the set, shattering the mug and “creating a potentially dangerous situation.” And so on.