LOS ANGELES — Keith Olbermann said he “screwed up” by taking a job with Current TV, but he plans to make the channel pay for firing him.
In Olbermann’s first TV interview since he was dismissed last week by Current, he was asked by David Letterman to assess his chances of getting any money due him. After reportedly signing a five-year, $50 million contract with Current, he was there less than a year.
Olbermann referred back to Conan O’Brien’s legal battle with NBC over “The Tonight Show,” which ended with a reported $45 million exit settlement for O’Brien. “She’s my lawyer,” Olbermann said, smiling.
Entertainment attorney Patricia Glaser represented O’Brien during his severance fight.
During his appearance Tuesday on CBS’ “Late Show,” Olbermann compared himself to an expensive chandelier that ended up without a good home because of problems at Current — and his failure to see them.
“I screwed up really big on this. Let’s just start there,” Olbermann said. But he wasn’t the only one, he indicated, offering a home-building analogy.
“It’s my fault that it didn’t succeed in the sense that I didn’t think the whole thing through. I didn’t say, ‘You know, if you buy a $10 million chandelier, you should have a house to put it in. Just walking around with a $10 million chandelier isn’t going to do anybody a lot of good, and it’s not going to do any good to the chandelier.”
Letterman sought clarification.
“You’re the chandelier?” he asked. Yes, his guest replied.
The studio for his show, “Countdown,” was inadequate, Olbermann claimed, and he lost access to a car service because of an unpaid bill. He denied that he had skipped taking part in key political coverage earlier this year because he was upset over production problems.
Instead, he said, he was “fighting something in my throat” and had been told by his physician to remain silent for five days to resolve the problem.
Olbermann stopped short of directing criticism at former Vice President Al Gore, Current TV’s co-founder.
“He meant well. It didn’t go well,” Olbermann said. “He just wasn’t that involved in it and it was kind of difficult to get to him on these things.”
But he took a slap at Current co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt, saying that “television was something of a challenge for him.”
While he quickly realized he’d made a mistake joining Current, Olbermann said, he stayed out of loyalty to viewers and his staff.
Last Friday, Current TV announced it was immediately replacing Olbermann’s show with a new program hosted by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. In a statement, Gore and Hyatt said their relationship with Olbermann no longer reflected respect and other values.
Olbermann fired back online, saying the claims would be proven untrue in legal action he intended to pursue.
The at-times volatile host came to Current last June after a stormy eight-year stint at MSNBC, his second at that network, and an abrupt departure in January 2011.