Keith Olbermann sat down with David Letterman last night to talk MSNBC, 2012, and his new venture, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, on Al Gore’s Current TV, which will start airing June 20. Here’s a clip of the Letterman interview courtesy of CBS.

Olbermann was his usual pompous, charming, and sharp self, and didn’t let too much slip in terms of details on the new show. He did, however, elaborate a little on his decision to leave MSNBC. Here’s what he had to say.

“At some point in the last years that I’ve been doing the news in the way that I do it, it’s occurred to me that the best place for me to start doing the news—hopefully to continue it that way—would be at a place that’s just in the news business and nothing else. That doesn’t also own a amusement park in Orlando, or doesn’t have outdoor advertising or, you know, beet plantations in the Azures, or whatever else. A company that just did news and we could kind of make every decision relying on that.”

Okay, fair enough. But it should be noted that while there ain’t no Inconvenient Truth theme park in Florida, there are certainly non-newsy interests to be seen on Current TV. SWAT: Miami Dade, for one. What Did I Do Last Night? for another.

Olbermann said that the Current TV offer, which came via a phone call from Al Gore the day after he left MSNBC, was “manna from heaven.” When Gore asked if he was interested, Olbermann struck back: “You betcha—can you afford me?”

Amid ruminations on the thin GOP 2012 field, Olbermann joked that he hasn’t just burned bridges with previous employers, or even napalmed them, but has burned the actual rivers. And, on the question of how he got to keep the Countdown name, told Letterman, “We just sort of did it… We’ll hear from them if they’re not happy.”

In a press release from Current TV earlier this month, it was announced that the new Countdown will air weeknights at 8 p.m. and feature regular contributors like documentarian Ken Burns, Michael Moore, comedian Richard Lewis, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, Nicole D. Lamoureux, and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas. Olbermann announced via Twitter that there would be twenty contributors in total.


Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.