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Olbermann minces no words in lawsuit against Current TV

In a legal complaint for breach of contract, the talk-show host accuses the cable network's co-founders, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, of blackmail and calls them 'dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives.'

April 06, 2012|By Scott Collins, Los Angeles Times
  • Political pundit Keith Olbermann, here leaving a 2011 taping of the "Late Show with David Letterman," filed a legal complaint for breach of contract against Current TV co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, accusing them of blackmail and calling them “dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives."
Political pundit Keith Olbermann, here leaving a 2011 taping of the "Late… (Charles Sykes / Associated…)

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 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 County Superior Court, accusing them of blackmail and calling them "dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives."

The lawsuit sets the stage for a high-profile legal battle between two leaders of American liberalism: Gore, a former U.S. vice president and Nobel laureate, and Olbermann, a fiery talk-show host.

The papers peel back the curtain on Current's backstage workings, charging that Gore and Hyatt wooed Olbermann, 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, 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."

scott.collins@latimes.com

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