Olbermann's fight with Current TV lands in court
LOS ANGELES—Keith Olbermann is moving his grievances with his former employer Current TV from the airwaves to the courtroom, suing the network for more than $50 million and blasting it for what he claims were shoddy production values.
Olbermann's breach-of-contract lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Thursday also seeks a judge's ruling that he didn't disparage the network before his firing, and that his former bosses violated his agreement by disclosing how much he was being paid.
The complaint describes a litany of technical issues, including shoddy equipment that wouldn't work if it rained, "terrible sound and filming" of the show, guests who were abruptly dropped from the air, busted teleprompters and an earpiece that repeatedly malfunctioned.
The court case escalated a war of words between Olbermann and the network since the host was fired last week. The lawsuit repeatedly attacks Current co-founder Joel Hyatt and network President David Borman, claiming they were responsible for many of the problems with Olbermann's show.
Current spokesman Christopher Lehane fired back, saying Olbermann was fired for missing work, "sabotaging the network" and disparaging his bosses.
Lehane's statement said the network looked forward to airing the grievances, which it called false and malicious, in a courtroom where they would be treated objectively.
It also swatted back at Olbermann, whose attorney at one point in the lawsuit likened Current to a public-access cable channel.
"We hope Mr. Olbermann understands that when it comes to the legal process, he is actually required to show up," Lehane wrote.
Olbermann denies missing work without permission and is asking a judge to determine he did not violate the terms of his lucrative agreement.
He filed his case two days after he attacked his former employers on David Letterman's late-night talk show.
"Current's dysfunction permeated all levels of the organization," the lawsuit states. "After being on the air for nearly eight months -- long after all `growing pains' should have ceased -- Current still couldn't manage to, literally, keep the lights on."
The talk show host claims he may be owed in excess of $70 million, and that the mismanagement at Current has damaged its value. He has an ownership stake in the network, according to the case.
"Olbermann deeply regrets his decision to put his trust in Hyatt and Gore," the lawsuit claims. "Current had neither the desire nor the ability to produce a first rate news commentary show. Olbermann did not join Current to ruin his hard-won reputation and appear on a show that was an embarrassment."
Olbermann was fired March 30 and replaced with a new program hosted by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. In a statement, Gore and Hyatt said their relationship with Olbermann no longer reflected respect and other values.
In his lawsuit, Olbermann accused Hyatt of acting erratically in his leadership of the network. He claims Hyatt threated to fire him and his staff days before the show premiered.
While the host is critical of Gore -- at one point describing him and Hyatt as "dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives" -- his complaint does not attack the former vice president in the same way as he does others. The case even airs Olbermann's dissatisfaction with the network's decision to hire Cenk Uygur, who created the talk show "The Young Turks."
Olbermann came to Current last June after a stormy eight-year stint at MSNBC, his second at that network. The at-times volatile host abruptly left MSNBC in January 2011.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP. AP Television Writer Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report.