NEW YORK — A suspension is proving good business for MSNBC and Keith Olbermann – at least in the short term.
The size of the combative liberal host's audience shot up in the days after his return from a two-day suspension for donating to three Democratic candidates. The Nielsen Co. said Olbermann's show reached 1.3 million viewers the first three days after his return last week, up from the 1.08 million he averaged in October.
His first day back, on Tuesday, Olbermann reached 1.5 million people, Nielsen said.
Olbermann's suspension, and subsequent non-apology to NBC News, has caused backstage controversy at the network. MSNBC chief executive Phil Griffin threatened to fire Olbermann if he went ahead with a threat to talk about the issue on ABC's "Good Morning America," the website The Daily Beast reported Monday. An MSNBC spokesman said the network had no comment on the story.
Olbermann took on veteran TV newsman Ted Koppel on Monday, saying he and other journalists failed the country during the Iraq War because they were too worried about being objective.
Koppel had criticized the rise of opinionated cable news programming in an essay titled, "Olbermann, O'Reilly and the death of real news," published Sunday in the Washington Post. Koppel, the former ABC "Nightline" host, said Fox and MSNBC show the world not as it is, but as partisans would like it to be.
"This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone," Koppel wrote.
Olbermann, in his own "special report" essay on his show Monday, said some of the best work of TV journalists like Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and even Koppel during the Iranian hostage crisis that gave birth to "Nightline" came when they prodded the powerful and said things many did not want to hear.
Yet last decade Koppel and others "did not shed the same light on the increasingly incoherent excuses" offered by the government to justify the Iraq war, he said.
"Where were they?" he asked. "Worshipping before the false god of utter objectivity. The kind of television journalism he eulogizes utterly failed this country because when truth was needed, all we got were facts, most of which were lies anyway."
Koppel declined to comment on Olbermann's statements, said a spokesman for BBC America, where the veteran journalist works now.