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January 21, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

In an exit announcement made all the more surprising by the fact that no reasons for it were advanced, Keith Olbermann said at the end of tonight’s (Friday) show that it would be his last on MSNBC. He did not indicate whether he had quit or had been fired but hinted at the former, saying: “I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told, that this is going to be the last edition of your show. You go directly to the scene from the movie Network” in which Peter Finch, as a network anchor, implores the viewer “to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell … well, you know the rest.” (For those who do not the words are “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”) Olbermann had two years to go on his current contract. The network issued a perfunctory statement saying, “MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.” Speculation immediately arose that Olbermann’s ouster had been dictated by Comcast, which is due to take over control of NBC Universal, the parent of MSNBC, next week. But Daily Variety said on its website tonight that it had been informed by MSNBC insiders that Comcast execs had “nothing to do” with Olbermann’s departure and only learned about it on Tuesday, the same day the FCC and Justice Department approved the merger. MSNBC had suspended Olbermann in November for two days after it learned that he had donated to three Democratic candidates in violation of NBC News policy.

UPDATE: Terms of Olbermann’s exit agreement are similar to Conan O’Brien’s, the New York Times reported today, citing unnamed MSNBC executives, and therefore preclude Olbermann’s discussing his departure publicly. It also bars him from appearing as a host or guest on any television outlet, although he is permitted to work on radio and the Internet. The executives declined to discuss the length of time the restrictions will remain in effect.