Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak enters Keith Olbermann controversy


Pat Sajak’s tenure in the late night talk show genre was not a long one, but he had enough time back in 1989 to host then local Los Angeles TV sportscaster Keith Olbermann on a number of occasions. Sajak has now apologized to America for his role in kick-starting Olbermann’s career. Olbermann responded that his career was already well under way and that Sajak should apologize for the show.

Sajak wrote an article on ricochet.com to make his “mea culpa.” He wrote, “Keith was a sportscaster at the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles at the same time I was doing a talk show for that network. I thought Keith was pretty funny on the air, and I suggested we have him come on the show and talk sports. This was the first of several appearances he made on the show, and he always did a nice job.”

Sajak said he didn’t know when Olbermann became so bitter, and concluded, “I do know that to whatever extent the political well has been poisoned, Keith has dumped more than his share of venom into the water. I’d like to think he knows that and maybe even regrets it. I liked the Keith Olbermann of 1989. This tape reminded me that I miss him.”

Olbermann told Hollywood Reporter that as early as 1981 he received national exposure on CNN, and had many other stops along the way to his handful of appearances on Sajak’s late nighter, which had a 15-month run that ended in 1990. Olbermann noted that Sajak’s show was replaced by “crime-and-skin series” “Silk Stalkings,” which like the Sajak experiment did not go anywhere. He actually took a share of the blame for Sajak’s failure, saying, “Obviously, we guests must’ve really stunk.”

RBR-TVBR observation: This entire situation has been strange from the getgo – but it does seem to verify the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Olbermann, whose job is to have political opinions, gets suspended for making political contributions by the very network he helped to make profitable, precisely because of his opinions.

The sum and total of the political investment: three $2.4K donations for a total of $7.2K, pales in comparison to his network’s fiercest rival, which according to numerous reports handed out $1M to the Republican Governors Association, another $1M to the US Chamber of Commerce and over $1M in the battle over a California ballot initiative.

Olbermann is then attacked by a man – Sajak – who we have personally heard say that he was born with the gift blandness, a natural talent which has made him one of the greatest game show hosts in history, and also seemingly one of the least political personalities on television today.

The first measurable result of the entire situation was a 500K bump in the viewership of Olbermann’s program on his first day back. So in the end we may once again conclude that there was nothing at all bad about all of this bad publicity.