Former MSNBC talent David Shuster knows what it's like to be on the bad side of the suits upstairs at 30 Rock. Placed on an indefinite suspension when it came out that he had auditioned for his own show on rival network CNN, Shuster has only recently been officially fired from the network. He had already tested the patience of his bosses by engaging in a Twitter war with James O'Keefe (of the ACORN "pimp" faked video) and suggesting that Hillary Clinton was "pimping" out daughter Chelsea during the primaries.
So for the continual fascination with navel-gazing on their own industry, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked for David's input on the Olbermann departure from MSNBC. Thanks to Heather at VideoCafe, who made this mash up of David's comments.
Anderson immediately goes to the rumors of diva-like behavior of Olbermann. Shuster tries to remain diplomatic towards MSNBC but it's clear that he's a big fan of Olbermann and is confident that Keith will end up on his feet somewhere. (Howard Kurtz is reporting that part of the terms agreed upon prohibits Olbermann from appearing on other television programs through the end of his contract, or 2012.)
COOPER: David, I don’t want to put you on the spot too much, but I guess it’s part of…sort of my job in this case. Was he…well-liked within MSNBC? I’ve heard plenty of…what is your impression?
SHUSTER: Well, yeah, it’s a fair question. I think the people he worked with had a lot of respect for him, the people on his show, the director, the technical people. That’s the sort of people who often get forgotten by, you know, major talent. Keith was very kind to them. The make up artists, that sort of thing. I think as far as the management, I mean, Keith had his conflicts with management, going back to when Dan Abrams was running MSNBC and he had his conflicts with Phil Griffin. I think one thing to keep in mind is that not only are things changing with Jeff Zucker no longer running MSNBC, but the reporting structure. You now have Phil Griffin, from what I understand, is going to be reporting to Steve Capus, instead of directly reporting to the head of MSNBC. So Steve Capus, the head of NBC News, will certainly have much more influence over MSNBC. And this may be part of it. It is no secret that Steve was particularly upset –justifiably so—how Keith handled the suspension earlier this year and the donations and Phil Griffin took a little bit of a different tack than Steve probably would have liked. But yeah, I think what you’re seeing now either Keith recognizing, or certainly Steve Capus influencing MSNBC a lot more than he would have had say, a week ago.
Trying again, Cooper insinuates that Olbermann's ego will suffer from losing his platform, and again, Shuster deflects it by cautioning against counting Olbermann out:
COOPER: I just feel bad. I’ve met him a handful of times, I don’t really know him personally, really. But for someone clearly has a strong opinion, it would be a difficult thing, I would think, to be off the air, you know, at such a critical time in this country’s history, David.
SHUSTER: Well, yes and no. He’s gone down this road before. I mean, he’s worked for…he left MSNBC following the Monica Lewinsky scandal back in ’98, ’99. He was off the air for a period of time. He worked at CNN. He worked at Fox. So he’s certainly gotten used to his breaks in between his successes. And I guarantee Keith is not done in the broadcast world. He’s a very smart guy. A lot of organizations would be very wise to talk to him and to at least see what he could possibly do next, whether it’s a radio show, whether it’s a tv show. I mean, he’s such a super talent and he is good to work with. That’s a combination that I think will mean he’s got a bright future regardless…and it will be on his terms.
I do think that as upset as we currently are over Keith's departure, there is a larger concern over the silencing of voices in the media. Difficult or diva-ish as Keith may be, there is no question that he created the infrastructure of strong, progressive voices in the MSNBC line up. Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell were able to parlay guest hosting duties for Keith into their own shows. Who knows if Chris Hayes or Sam Seder might have seen the same in due time? Few news hosts could do that without a healthy serving of ego, so I'm not willing to begrudge him a little arrogance. But Keith brought ratings, almost single-handedly bringing MSNBC from third place to occasionally besting FOX in his time slot. He didn't lose advertisers and yet, he is now out of a job and yet Glenn Beck--who wouldn't know integrity if it stood in front of him and waved hello--has lost now more than 300 advertisers, seen his ratings plummet and yet still remains on the air, infecting it with lies and craziness.
As we go into what Anderson Cooper notes is a critical time in history, we really cannot afford to lose this voice.
Transcripts below the fold