Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely without pay from MSNBC last Friday for donating to the campaigns of three Democrats running for office this year. As it turns out, the suspension will only last two working days. NBC’s policy on campaign donations explicitly forbids its employees from contributing without the company’s permission, something which Olbermann didn’t acquire. The incident has created a lot of controversy, as some see the donations as a breach of journalistic ethics, while others have pointed out that Olbermann is a commentator who clearly supports Democrats and a progressive agenda.
In the past few weeks, Olbermann has heavily criticized Fox personalities and their parent company News Corp for making campaign donations to Republicans and other conservative groups. He never disclosed his own actions or those of his parent company GE during any of these stories. In his own defense, Olbermann said that he “did not privately or publicly encourage anyone to donate to these campaigns nor to any others in this election or any previous ones.” He has solicited donations for free health care clinics in various cities that have a large uninsured population, but had not directly any encouraged donations to political organizations like Glenn Beck did for the Chamber of Commerce.
Arizona representatives Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords, as well as Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway, each received $2,400s from Olbermann. The house candidates won. Conway, who was up against Tea Party favorite Rand Paul in Kentucky lost by a wide margin. All polls had shown Paul as the heavy favorite. Grijalva and Conway have appeared as guests on Olbermann’s show.
Fellow anchor Rachel Maddow’s comments on Olbermann’s suspension were noticed the most. She came out in support of him, and then went on to show her audience that MSNBC has more integrity than Fox. In the words of Jon Stewart, thats like being the skinniest kid at fat camp. This was nothing more that a publicity stunt designed to show that MSNBC is far ahead of their partisan rivals when it comes to journalistic ethics. Instead they only come out in front by about 2 days.