Keith Olbermann's $70M suit accuses Current TV of blackmail
Keith Olbermann isn't mincing words in his $70-million lawsuit against Current TV.
Dumped last week by the upstart cable network, Olbermann let loose with a verbal barrage against co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt in a 43-page legal complaint for breach of contract filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, accusing them of "blackmail" and calling them "dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives."
The suit peels back the curtain on Current's backstage workings, charging that Gore and Hyatt wooed Olbermann, a liberal talk host formerly on MSNBC, to Current with promises that he would be the captain of his own ship, free from corporate interference. But no sooner had he started work, Olbermann alleges, than Hyatt began meddling, running the network as his "personal hobbyhorse" and creating "an environment in which major business errors and technical failures became commonplace and acceptable."
The glitches were so bad, the suit argues, that ratings for Olbermann's program "Countdown" suffered.
Less than two weeks before the show premiered on Current, the papers allege, Hyatt -- who said he was speaking on Gore's behalf as well -- accused Olbermann's manager of leaking contract details to the Hollywood Reporter and threatened to halt the show unless Olbermann banned his representatives "from all interactions related to Current." Olbermann reluctantly agreed, but the suit now calls Hyatt "a blackmailer."
"Olbermann deeply regrets his decision to put his trust in Hyatt and Gore," the suit states.
Current bosses also slotted guest hosts of "Countdown" without his approval, in breach of his contract, and disseminated inaccurate data to the media that understated the program's ratings, the papers say.
In a statement, Current spokesman Chris Lehane called the Olbermann suit "false and malicious."
"Current terminated Keith Olbermann last Thursday for serial, material breaches of his contract, including the failure to show up at work, sabotaging the network and attacking Current and its executives," the statement said, adding a swipe: "We hope Mr. Olbermann understands that when it comes to the legal process, he is actually required to show up."
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Photo: Keith Olbermann, left, with David Letterman this week. Credit: Jeffrey R. Staab / Associated Press