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Keith Olbermann on Why He Left MSNBC - and How He Plans to Get Even

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Will that continue once the show starts?
People say, "What happens if we get the call?" [from Current headquarters in San Francisco]. I say, "I've talked to them about this. If they're going to call, the likelihood is they're going to call and say, 'How come you weren't louder about this? How come you didn't yell more?' " I said to Al, "You know, every time people have trusted me to know what I'm talking about, I actually get small-c conservative." He said, "Let's not overdo that."

At Current, television is all we do—that's our business. We don't have amusement parks I have to worry about, we don't have environmental cases against us, we don't have a series of outdoor-advertising companies. If there's a decision between making money versus offending somebody, it will be a clean either/or—there won't be 19 other divisions that have some sort of say in the process. I'm not being critical of NBC. I just think people can trust what we do to be entirely based on the news merits. It will be that simple kind of old-fashioned television news operation of the Sixties and Seventies that had the proverbial Chinese wall around them to keep them away from concerns about advertisers. What we won't have is any concern that I have to somehow game a system to make sure I can continue to do what I want to do.

Were you ever censored by MSNBC?
No. What were they going to do about it? It was live. I will say this. Nobody ever said, "If you say this, you're going to be fired."

It's not about "NBC is evil." It's about that media structure—CBS, ABC, CNN, even some of the smaller operations are now multinationals, with these extraordinarily diverse holdings. The corporation is one of the great unheralded human inventions of destruction. It is a way to absolve from any personal liability a bunch of people. They form together in a massive id and they do whatever they want. In a corporate setting, there's nothing to stop Rupert Murdoch or Disney from doing whatever the hell they want with the news. They could turn it into propaganda for the Chinese government or the socialist party of America, and who's going to stop them?

When did things start to change for you at MSNBC?
It was three years ago, when Tim Russert died. One of the reasons I got as far as I got was that Tim was there to run interference for me. He never made a big deal out of the fact that he probably was my biggest supporter within the network. He used to go to them and say, "Leave him alone, we can handle the blowback, I'll take care of it." After he died, Maureen, his wife, told me that she used to have to wrest the channel-changer away from him every night, because he loved to watch the show. She said, "You deal with this all day and you have to watch it again?" He said, "I have to see what he's saying about it, it's the best." I teared up and said, "I didn't know that." She said, "He thought you already had a big enough head."

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