Lawrence O’Donnell’s Future at MSNBC Uncertain

Lawrence O'Donnell, right, answers a question as Rachel Maddow, left, listens / AP
• May 15, 2017 1:41 pm


MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell has not been offered a renewal of his contract with just four weeks left until it expires, a surprising development for the cable network's second-highest rated host.

Several sources told the Huffington Post over the weekend that MSNBC has not held discussions with O'Donnell's representatives to negotiate a new contract and does not appear interested in renewing the deal.

O'Donnell has been at MSNBC since its founding in 1996 and has hosted "The Last Word," the network's second-highest rated program (next to "The Rachel Maddow Show), since the fall of 2010. O'Donnell sometimes outcompetes Fox News host Sean Hannity in the 18-to-49 age demographic, usually seen as the most important demo for television viewers.

O'Donnell's ratings make the absence of any contract negotiations at this point all the more unusual. According to the Huffington Post, networks generally start renegotiating contracts six to nine month before they are set to expire; a shorter time frame can put the network at a disadvantage for contract discussions.

It is possible that O'Donnell's contract will simply not be renewed. If that is the case, the reason may be Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News, who is allegedly not a fan of O'Donnell. Some insiders say the animosity stems from the "The Last Word's" liberal bent, but it is more likely attributable to O'Donnell's refusal to move his show from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET. O'Donnell's contract mandates that his program must air in prime time.

Lack has not had a face-to-face meeting with O'Donnell since he returned to the network in 2015, according to the Huffington Post.

It remains unclear who would replace O'Donnell at the 10:00 p.m. time slot. One option might be former NBC anchor and current host of "The 11th Hour" Brian Williams, who the Huffington Post reports "has been eager to have an earlier start in the evening schedule."

At least one other celebrity figure would likely be pleased to hear of O'Donnell's departure: President Donald Trump.

O'Donnell and Trump have a long-standing feud, going back to 2011 when the MSNBC host called for the now-president to be ejected from his television show, "The Apprentice," following his calls for then-President Obama to release his birth certificate. Trump, in return, allegedly pushed for O'Donnell, who he called a "third-rate anchor," to be ousted from MSNBC.

O'Donnell has been quiet on the future of his show, but intimated that his program might need audience support. In a tweet he sent Friday touting his ratings, O'Donnell wrote, "Thanks for your support. We need it."