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Was Olbermann Ready to Quit if a Truce Was Called?

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz fills in more of the gaps about the FNC/MSNBC agreement to tone down personal attacks on the cable networks’ hosts and their parent companies’ executives.

Kurtz provides more details on the discussions, first reported by TVNewser, between FNC founder and chairman Roger Ailes and GE chairman Jeff Immelt, which included a lunch at 30 Rock.

After using a side entrance to Immelt’s 53rd-floor dining room — their Manhattan buildings are a block apart — Ailes offered a blunt, if slightly jocular, diagnosis of the problem. He could control his nutcases, Ailes said, but Immelt couldn’t control his.

On June 1, the day after abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered, Olbermann punched at O’Reilly. The next night, O’Reilly punched up, at Immelt.

Immelt called Ailes the next morning, saying O’Reilly had gone way too far. Ailes was sympathetic and again said they should take a stand against personal and gratuitous attacks. The war, Ailes said, is over.

KeithOlbermann_8.7.jpg“But,” writes Kurtz, “the war was just beginning at MSNBC, where an opinionated culture is often at odds with NBC News.”

Kurtz reports that after Olbermann’s comments about the Tiller murder, “executives convened a large meeting and talked about Fox and the importance of striking the right on-air tone. Olbermann later expressed a willingness to make minor adjustments in his style, but he and his allies, concerned about setting a precedent, dug in for a fight. Olbermann left Zucker and executives with the impression that he might quit if the dispute wasn’t resolved to his satisfaction.”

Then, last Friday’s news of some sort of deal, which seemed to exacerbate the issue on-air this week.

“This is more of an internal issue that NBC and GE need to work through,” a Fox spokesman told Kurtz. “There was an agreement for no personal attacks,” a Fox executive said. GE and NBC did not comment for Kurtz’s story.

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