ESPN “Sportscenter” anchor Keith Olbermann has for the past week been serving an involuntary paid vacation from his job after making an appearance on the Comedy Central program “The Daily Show” without first seeking permission.
Olbermann was a guest on the irreverent show, hosted by former ESPN anchor Craig Kilborn, on April 16. During the half-hour, he responded to the challenge, “Name the most God-forsaken place on the East Coast,” with the reply, “Bristol, Connecticut.”
Bristol happens to be where ESPN is headquartered, though Olbermann, reached Tuesday, said that the flip remark was not meant to be a dig at his employer, but was instead a joke directed at Kilborn, who never took a fancy to working in Bristol.
However, Olbermann declined to respond to any other aspect of his paid leave of absence, which ESPN insisted was not a suspension.
ESPN spokeswoman Diane Lamb said Tuesday, “We are sorting through some things with Keith, and we thought that giving him some time off would be a good opportunity for everyone involved to gain some perspective.”
Lamb added that she was not at liberty to discuss when Olbermann might be returning to the air. He has been off the air since April 28, and while sources say he will be back May 12, Lamb left the impression Tuesday that his absence was indefinite.
“We’re having conversations with Keith, and we’ll take it from there,” Lamb said.
Olbermann’s appearance on “The Daily Show” was made in conjunction with a new book he has co-authored with fellow ESPN anchor Dan Patrick entitled “The Big Show.” Olbermann reportedly failed to tell his ESPN superiors of his intention to appear on the show because he knew they would forbid it.
“ESPN is essentially just punishing Keith for going on the show,” said “Daily Show” host Kilborn. “The thing is, Keith, Dan and I are like family. We’re buds. It’s just too bad.”
Perhaps one reason that Olbermann knew better than to ask permission to appear on a Comedy Central show is the fact that ESPN is owned by Disney, while Comedy Central is jointly overseen by Time Warner and Viacom. It’s a clash of corporate behemoths.
Olbermann is also known to be in the process of renegotiating his ESPN contract, and it’s thought that his bold move to appear on “The Daily Show” is connected to that.