MSNBC taps former Democratic aide Lawrence O’Donnell to host new prime-time show

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Lawrence O’Donnell, whose career has taken him from the halls of the U.S. Senate to the writing room of a top entertainment show, is now getting his own prime-time show on MSNBC.

The cable news network announced Tuesday that O’Donnell, a longtime political analyst for MSNBC who has been a regular substitute for Keith Olbermann, will helm a show that will air weeknights at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, replacing the repeat of Olbermann’s nightly program.


MSNBC President Phil Griffin said O’Donnell fits perfectly with the rest of the network’s lineup, calling him “smart, progressive and based in fact.”

The move gives MSNBC a solid block of left-leaning hosts in prime time.

Griffin said he concluded O’Donnell was the right pick for the time slot after seeing that he was able to hold much of Olbermann’s viewership when he filled in for him during the last year. “He’s proven to connect with our audience,” Griffin said.

O’Donnell served as a top advisor to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and chief of staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He then moved into television, working as a writer and executive producer on “West Wing,” for which he won an Emmy. He’s also had stints as an actor, most recently portraying an attorney on the HBO show “Big Love.”

“Between politics and pop culture, there’s probably no better person,” Griffin said.

When O’Donnell’s new show premieres, which is expected to be sometime in the next few months, MSNBC will move repeats of “Countdown” and “The Rachel Maddow Show” back one hour so they will air at the same time on the West Coast as they do in the East.

MSNBC executives have contemplated launching a new show in the 10 p.m. hour for some time. Last year, fans of liberal radio host Cenk Uygur of the Internet show ‘The Young Turks’ and Sam Seder of Air America lobbied executives to select one of the two men for the time slot, urging the network to bring on another host with the liberal leanings of Olbermann and Maddow.

At the time, Griffin said he wasn’t necessarily looking for a host with similar ideology. “I want that hour to be edgy, to be smart, to be a little snarky,” he said.


On Tuesday, Griffin said he hadn’t given himself any particular deadline to create a 10 p.m. show. “I’ve been looking for years. The opportunity came up because Lawrence was ready and we’re ready, honestly.”

— Matea Gold