Keith Olbermann Suspended Indefinitely From MSNBC Over Donations

This morning, Politico revealed Keith Olbermann’s donations to three Democratic candidates for Congress in October.

This afternoon, Olbermann was suspended indefinitely by MSNBC:

MSNBC president Phil Griffin released the following statement Friday following the news that Keith Olbermann had donated to three Democratic candidates this election cycle:

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.”

Presumably this means that Olbermann did not comply with the MSNBC policy that requires political activity like this to be approved by a supervisor, which is surprising in itself because he most assuredly knew that his name would show up in the FEC database as soon as the campaigns in question filed their next reports. Olbermann may be many things, but I never thought that stupid was one of them so this surprises me to some extent, unless Keith thought, incorrectly, that he was so valuable to MSNBC that he could whatever he wanted regardless of the rules.

FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    Wow, I have to say this almost defies belief. But maybe that’s just because I’m used to news networks valuing ratings over ethics.

    The other thing, too, if MSNBC thinks this is going to win points with people who think they’re too biased, they should think again.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t see a problem with opinionmaker/analysis like Olbermann contributing to his party.

    I think the problem is MSNBC putting Olbermann in something of a cable news anchor spot for election coverage.

    I also think there is an appearance problem with Olbermann making contributions on the day he interviews someone. It looks like a payment to appear, though I doubt it was.

  3. James Joyner says:

    PD’s point about donating to someone he’s interviewing is an important one I hadn’t thought of. In the main, though, I’m flummoxed that anyone was supposed to think Olbermann was some kind of neutral journalist.

  4. mantis says:

    I eagerly await conservatives jumping to Olbermann’s defense on First Amendment grounds, as many did for Juan Williams.

  5. Yes, PD does have a point about the interview, but it’s unclear from the story whether the donation was made before the interview or vice versa. Obviously, that would be an important point in that regard.

    Even so, though, it’s obvious that Olbermann would support the Democratic candidate. Heck, one could argue that shows like his (and the shows on Fox) are a form of in-kind contribution to the Democratic (or Republican) Party. There’s a reason that people like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell appeared on FNC, while Alan Grayson showed up exclusively on MSNBC. Friendly environment, no hard questions, easy way to communicate with potential supporters.

    Personally, I don’t see anything wrong about it. Apparently, though, MSNBC wants us to believe that its 5pm-11pm block of shows is “journalism” rather than opinion.

  6. sam says:

    “I eagerly await conservatives jumping to Olbermann’s defense on First Amendment grounds, as many did for Juan Williams.”

    Sure. After all, money is speech — or so I’ve been told.

    (And no, I do not think this is a First Amendment violation.)

  7. mantis says:

    After all, money is speech — or so I’ve been told.

    That’s right!

    (And no, I do not think this is a First Amendment violation.)

    Yeah, me neither, but same goes for Juan.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t recall reading any conservatives around this site defending Williams on First Amendment grounds, but if they did they were leveraging on NPR’s (small) public stipend.

  9. Chip Vogel says:

    Its an odd policy to me for an employer to OK any donations.

    Are there any employers that have a similar policy towards donating to religious organizations or charities?

    Does Omaha Steaks check to see in any of their employees donate to PETA?

  10. Bill Jempty says:

    People who think they will never get fired, end up getting fired.

    Many years ago I worked part-time for H&R Block every winter. There was a Quality Control employee named Ray. He used to say regularly- “H&R Block never fires anyone.” A few years after I voluntarily stopped working for Block, a former co-worker told me Ray got fired because he would go home from the office without clocking out. He apparently had been doing it for a while.

  11. mantis says:

    I don’t recall reading any conservatives around this site defending Williams on First Amendment grounds

    No, other than RINO MORON, I don’t think they were. I was thinking of folks like Sarah Palin and her followers.

  12. Bill,

    There have been reports for awhile now about Olbermann butting heads with MSNBC management. This may have been the last straw.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    and mantis, RINO MORON got banned for exercising his free speech rights on OTB!!!

    😉

  14. mantis says:

    and mantis, RINO MORON got banned for exercising his free speech rights on OTB!!!

    Hehe. Little Hitlers everywhere, takin our freedom of speech!

  15. John Burgess says:

    I agree with Doug. I think Olbermann may just have given NBC the excuse they were looking for. I mean, isn’t Daily Outrage Sputter & Slur Countdown trailing even CNN in the ratings?

  16. john personna says:

    I think the most interesting thing is how it relates to the “Lean Forward” re-positioning.

    Apparently MSNBC didn’t like being positioned as Fox’s good (or bad, depending on your view) twin.

    People who don’t have a problem with Olbermann being Olbermann might just be trying to stay ahead of another argument ;-), whether Fox should really be Fox.

  17. PD Shaw says:

    @jp

    I think MSNBC has a structural problem that neither Fox nor CNN have, which is that it’s tied to NBC and shares brand recognition with NBC. I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been ongoing attempts to put structures in place that are not like their competitors.

  18. Bernieyeball says:

    So when is the Excellence in Broadcasting Network going to fire Brush Lintoff for donating/supporting/putting the correct spin on/being biased towards the Republican Party and their candidates?
    His is as much a news program as Olberman’s.
    How can Olberman’s case come under 1st Amendment USC?
    MSNBC is a private company.
    USC applies to the Govt. No?

  19. reid says:

    Seems like an idiotic rule. I fully expected Keith to be making private donations to D candidates, just as I expect Beck to be donating to his R candidates. As long as they don’t discuss it or actively promote anyone, what’s the difference? Really, there’s no appearance of objectivity with most of these people anyway. Silly. As others have pointed out elsewhere, it’s probably just an excuse, since Scarborough and others also donated to candidates.

  20. wr says:

    If this is a war between Olberman and Phil Griffin, my money’s on Olberman…

  21. wr says:

    Hey, it turns out that Griffin’s token — and barely watched — conservative Joe “dead intern” Scarborough donated to a candidate, then interviewed him with saying he’d donated. But MSNBC was fine with that. And with all of Pat Buchanon’s campaign donations.

    It’s pretty clear that Griffin, the man who fired their top-rated broadcaster for being anti-war in 2002, has a serious problem with Olberman. Maybe this was okay in the old NBC days, when the management kept obvious losers like Zucker and Silverman around despite a constant string of failures. But will ComCast choose the executive over the network’s top rated talent this time?

  22. John Burgess says:

    @wr: Yes they will. ComCast is all about the benjamins. MSNBC’s ‘top talent’ pulls in a closetful of viewers, far fewer than his competition. They can do better with reruns of Twilight films or anything else filled with spooky sound effects.

    Were I Rachel Maddow, I’d be looking around for greener pastures now, too.

  23. wr says:

    MSNBC — particularly Olbermann and Maddow — come in a strong second, just a shade behind Fox in 18-49. They routinely beat everything on the CNN channels, and they’re actually building a brand.

    If Comcast were to broom Olbermann and Maddow, it wouldn’t be because of the “benjamins,” because in that area they’re doing just fine. Which would mean it was only because of corportate distaste of anything besides a Fox “pro-business” slant.

    But I’ve seen no reason to believe this goes up to Comcast. Griffin doesn’t like Olbernan and Olberman doesn’t like Griffin, and I think that’s what this is about.

  24. John Burgess says:

    So… a multiplicity of factors all trending toward the same, desirable end. Sounds like fate or something.

  25. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****MSNBC — particularly Olbermann and Maddow — come in a strong second, just a shade behind Fox in 18-49. They routinely beat everything on the CNN channels, and they’re actually building a brand.****

    lol, that’s us flipping over to see what these idiots are saying, the FOX watchers lol…….

    But to suspend a political hack for donating to the party of NBC, that don’t make no good sense.

    Olbermann has a half$$ propaganda/Hit show, the guys doesn’t have a clue about the news, and or politics, He is the poster child for liberal thought, he is a liberal intellectual, one of their best, his show is all liberal ideals and liberal personal opinion.

    Pay him and put him back on the air!!!!!

    Not everyone reads OTB to see what the liberals best and brightest are thinking:(

    Heck with without him Fox will only have that dude that never wears a tie for competition, It aint fair!!!!!
    would somebody please start a petition for Olbermann’s job……