Friday, November 5, 2010

MSNBC Suspends Keith Olbermann

From Politico:

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely without pay after POLITICO reported that he made three campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement Friday: “I became aware of Keith’s political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay.”

Olbermann made campaign contributions to two Arizona members of Congress and failed Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Olbermann, who acknowledged the contributions in a statement to POLITICO, made the maximum legal donations of $2,400 apiece to Conway and to Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. He donated to the Arizona pair on Oct. 28 — the same day that Grijalva appeared as a guest on Olbermann’s “Countdown” show.

NBC has a rule against employees contributing to political campaigns, and a wide range of news organizations prohibit political contributions — considering it a breach of journalistic independence to contribute to the candidates they cover.

Whether or not the NBC policy makes sense is not really the issue here; the policy exists and presumably Mr. Olbermann was aware of it when he signed his contract and wrote the checks. So if he broke the rule he should be held accountable. But if he was the only one being held to that standard at the network while others — Joe Scarborough comes to mind — aren’t held up to it, then we have a problem.

The policy is designed to keep news reporters appearing as politically neutral. The policy does not apply to opinionaters or contributors like Pat Buchanan. But neither Mr. Olbermann nor Mr. Scarborough are news reporters and no one, regardless of their political views, could consider Countdown or Morning Joe as news programs. It’s obvious that they’re opinion programs and neither of the hosts hide their political leanings. So if Mr. Olbermann is being suspended without pay indefinitely, who will be sitting in for Joe Scarborough next week?