While he won't allow that losing the facial hair might have had a Samson-in-reverse effect, he does say that it had symbolic meaning. Here, from Holt, is the story:
“I thought, ‘You can't make major appearance changes in this business, but if you're changing jobs, maybe this is the time.' I had taken the family to Whistler, in British Columbia. It was a beautiful spring day. I'd fallen (while skiing) for maybe the eighth time. I thought, ‘What the heck am I doing spending all this money? I'm going to be out of work in a few weeks.' I was feeling very melancholy and very sorry for myself. And I went back down to the hotel, had a beer and I started shaving my mustache off. It was kind of a weird little moment. It was kind of halfway off, and there was no turning back at that point.
“I remember when I interviewed at MSNBC, one of the first things they said to me was, ‘In your tapes, you had a mustache, right?' I said, ‘Yeah, I recently took it off.' I said, ‘If you hire me, you get to decide if you want it or not.' They said, ‘No, no, we're fine with it now.' Not to get too deep on shaving my mustache, but it was kind of symbolic of, ‘This is a moment of liberation, a chance to reinvent yourself.' That's kind of what I did.”