By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer
NEW YORK - MSNBC fired Phil Donahue on Tuesday, abruptly ending the veteran talk show host's return to television after six months of poor ratings.
Donahue's final show will be Friday night. The news show that precedes him on the air, "Countdown: Iraq," temporarily will be expanded to two hours to replace him.
"We're proud of the program and we're disappointed that the show was not able to attract the viewership we had hoped for and expected," said Erik Sorenson, MSNBC president. "We thank Phil and his staff for their dedication, commitment and passion."
Donahue's office referred calls to his agent on Thursday, and he did not immediately return a call for comment.
The move was not a surprise. MSNBC hoped "Donahue" would provide a liberal counterweight to Fox News Channel's competing "The O'Reilly Factor," but the ratings started poorly and didn't improve.
MSNBC tried to tweak the show in November, putting Donahue in front of a live audience in New York instead of in a New Jersey studio, but it made little difference.