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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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New York Post blames Keith Olbermann's MSNBC flame-out on Ben Affleck?

January 31, 2011 |  7:54 pm

Keith_olbermann I guess it's no surprise that the New York Post is eagerly dumping on Keith Olbermann in the wake of his messy departure from MSNBC. But leave it to columnist Andrea Peyser (whom New York magazine once dubbed "the Madame DeFarge of the New York Post") to blame Olbermann's flame out on -- are you sitting down? -- Ben Affleck.

In a lengthy column that is almost entirely populated with anonymous sources, Peyser claims that the beginning of the end for Olbermann was in 2009, when MSNBC's Rachel Maddow booked Affleck to appear on her show. Peyser quotes a former MSNBC colleague as saying that Olbermann was so unhappy that "in protest, he refused to go on the air." She adds that Olbermann staged a three-day sickout after the episode, claiming that Olbermann's stated reason for missing airtime--he was mourning the death of his mother--was a lot of hooey. Who knows what really happened, but the alleged Affleck booking dispute gave the Post a convenient hook to run the headline "Why Olbermann's Gone Baby Gone," a reference to Affleck's critically praised 2007 film.  

The rest of the piece is loaded with anonymous sniping about Olbermann's supposed prima donna antics, including the time he supposedly had a meltdown when he discovered that his new office door had a built-in window. Peyser is so determined to bash Olbermann that she quotes anonymous ESPN sources about Olbermann's behavior there way, way back in the 1990s when he was a "Sports Center" anchor. I gather this is typical spiteful behavior from Peyser, who once famously described Christiane Amanpour as the "CNN war slut," which caused such an uproar that her boss of bosses, Rupert Murdoch, was forced to issue an apology.

Peyser has hardly cleaned up her act. No Olbermann misstep is too petty for her not to describe dismissively in the column. She even attempts to dig into Olbermann's personal life, getting huffy when a former girlfriend of his, whom Peyser describes as a "newsblonde," doesn't respond to an e-mail request for a comment. Peyser harrumphs: "One diva deserves another." As for Olbermann, he tweeted his own response to the piece, saying that it "rehashes old lie about shows I didn't do after my mother's death... Andrea Peyser is a swine."

I don't know about swine, but if you ever saw Olbermann and Peyser under the same roof, you'd have to say there was more than one diva in the room.

--Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Keith Olbermann on his final appearance on "Countdown" on Jan. 21, 2011.

Credit: Associated Press/MSNBC