Did MSNBC Throw Matthews Out With The Bathtub Boy's Water?

In case you missed it, MSNBC has decided to replace its election coverage co-anchors Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann with David Gregory.

Having followed Matthews career since his days with the San Francisco Examiner, and watched his ascendence at CNBC and MSNBC resulting from the success of "Hardball," I wonder why he got the boot along with Olbermann.

After all, regardless of Matthews' clear liberal leaning, this disturbing leftward shift by MSNBC in recent years is certainly due to the success of Olbermann's "Countdown." NBC News and MSNBC officials have intimated such for months (continued below the fold, photo courtesy Wall Street Journal).

With the exception of Joe Scarborough's on-air squabble with David Shuster during the Democratic National Convention, the rest of the well-publicized bickering that week all involved Olbermann. These included two tussles with Matthews (here and here), one with Mike Murphy, and one with Scarborough. 

Add to this the commentary Olbermann offered viewers during Thursday's Republican National Convention coverage that according to the New York Times' Brian Stelter angered NBC News officials, and the real problem at the network is clearly named Keith.

Yet Matthews got tossed as well. Could this have been a face-saving maneuver by the network?

After all, if Olbermann was the only person demoted, and was just replaced by Gregory to be Matthews' co-anchor, Keith would have come out looking the culprit. With Matthews also getting the boot, Olbermann got someone to share the blame AND the shame with.

As Olbermann gets MSNBC's best ratings, and apparently likes to throw his weight around as a result, doing something to coddle his ego might have been essential as part of this maneuver.

We may never know for sure, but even with his thrills down his legs, Matthews seems innocent by comparison to Olbermann's frequent acts of Obama sycophancy and Bush Derangement Syndrome. 

Finally, as an interesting aside, an NB reader floated the idea Sunday that Andrea Mitchell's sudden change of heart concerning Sarah Palin being a good pick for vice president might have been sparked by her knowledge of the Matthews-Olbermann demotions. Maybe the word's out to cool it a little on the Obama-lovin' or risk a similar fate.

Though compelling, as "The Chris Matthews Show" is recorded on Fridays, and Drudge didn't report on Matthews and Olbermann until Sunday evening, it seems unlikely this juicy a story could have been kept quiet for over 48 hours.

Finally, for those scratching their heads about the headline, "Bathtub Boy" is Fox News John Gibson's pejorative nickname for Olbermann. Those interested in an explanation should go here.

NBC MSNBC Hardball Countdown
Noel Sheppard's picture