Keith Olbermann: What Prompted His Exit From MSNBC?

(Keith Olbermann poll article updated with information regarding the former host's Twitter activity.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Keith Olbermann announced his departure from MSNBC at the end of his program on Friday.

The host of MSNBC's prime-time news and political commentary show Countdown with Keith Olbermann read his prepared exit statement on Friday night. MSNBC then emailed a statement to reporters that the network and the liberal talk show host had "ended their contract."
 Keith Olbermann
Keith Olbermann and MSNBC end their contract.

While Olbermann's announcement may have come as a surprise to many viewers, the host and MSNBC were apparently involved "in a relationship that had been failing for a long time," an NBC Universal executive said on Saturday.

In his goodbye statement, he said that he had "been told" that Friday would be his last show. While it has not been made clear if Olbermann quit or was fired, the NBC Universal executive said Olbermann took the first step in the mutual parting.

In November, Olbermann was suspended without pay after he gave the maximum individual donation of $2,400 to three Democratic candidates -- Reps. Paul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, as well as Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway.

NBC News, MSNBC's parent organization, prohibits political contributions by its journalists without prior approval of the president.

When MSNBC President Phil Griffin first learned of his political contributions, he suspended Olbermann indefinitely without pay. Then in a statement issued a few days later, Griffin said he had decided to lift the indefinite suspension.

"After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night's program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy," Griffin said.

When Olbermann returned from his suspension, he apologized to his viewers and fans, but not to the network.

"I genuinely look forward to rejoining you on Countdown on Tuesday, to begin the repayment of your latest display of support and loyalty," Olbermann said in his letter to his viewers, "support and loyalty that is truly mutual."

Lawrence O'Donnell has replaced Olbermann and anchor Ed Schultz has been moved into the 10 p.m. time slot.

Last fall, MSNBC gave O'Donnell a 10 p.m. program on the network with intentions to prepare him for the 8 p.m. slot, anticipating Olbermann's premature departure, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Rachel Maddow will remain in the 9 p.m. slot.

MSNBC CEO Griffin said on Saturday that he is confident with the new prime-time lineup.

"Going forward, we are in a great position with a lineup of proven hosts and I feel very comfortable where we are," he said. "I'm committed to this for years... It fits with who we are as a network."

Olbermann's future plans are unclear as he breaks his four-year contract with MSNBC two years early.

Following his departure, Olbermann remained silent on Twitter for a few days. Olbermann finally broke his Twitter silence on Monday and reached out to his fans.

"Citizens Of The Free World: Greetings! ........ (more to come) #FOK," @KeithOlberman tweeted at 8 p.m. ET Monday evening, with the #FOK hashtag standing for "friends of Keith."

"My humble thanks to all friends of Keith for the many kind words. The reports of the death of my career are greatly exaggerated #FOK," Olbermann tweeted ten minutes later.

Obermann has been active on his Twitter account since Monday, but has not provided any further details regarding his exit from MSNBC.

MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines told the AP that Olbermann's exit was not related to the acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast ( CMCSA), which received regulatory approval last week.

While it still isn't clear whether MSNBC fired the host or if Olbermann quit, we want to know what you think ultimately spurred the decision to end the contract. Take our poll and find out what the readers of TheStreet think.

What prompted Keith Olbermann's exit from MSNBC?

He quit.
He was fired.
It was a mutual decision to end the contract.

-- Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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