The story really isn’t about whether you like Olbermann or don’t like him.  Cast your personal feelings aside.  Keith Olbermann was fired because he violated company policy.  He contributed to three political campaigns. 

Olbermann is a commentator, not a newscaster.  However, on the night of the elections, he was serving as a newscaster.  The company has policy that  says their people aren’t to contribute to political campaigns.  Apparently no distinction is made between newscasters/journalists or commentators. 

Senator Bernie Sanders had the following opinion in

It is outrageous that General Electric/MSNBC would suspend Keith Olbermann for exercising his constitutional rights to contribute to a candidate of his choice. This is a real threat to political discourse in America and will have a chilling impact on every commentator for MSNBC.

We live in a time when 90 percent of talk radio is dominated by right-wing extremists, when the Republican Party has its own cable network (Fox) and when progressive voices are few and far between.

At a time when the ownership of Fox News contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party, when a number of Fox commentators are using the network as a launching pad for their presidential campaigns and are raising money right off the air, it is absolutely unacceptable that MSNBC suspended one of the most popular progressive commentators in the country.

Is Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz next? Is this simply a ‘personality conflict’ within MSNBC or is one of America’s major corporations cracking down on a viewpoint they may not like? Whatever the answer may be, Keith Olbermann should be reinstated immediately and allowed to present his point of view.


 Thomas Fiedler, Dean of Boston University College of Communication sees it differently:

The instant a journalist contributes to a candidate or a political cause, no matter how worthy, is the moment she or he stops being a journalist and becomes an advocate. That is as true for commentators – as Olbermann would claim to be – as it is for news reporters

However, most news stations aren’t holding to that standard, as Senator Sanders points out.  The question becomes then, do we all wallow with Fox while they dominate the political landscape, and fight fire with fire or do some stations rise above the obvious bias and try to adhere to the standards of yesteryear?

NBC needs to rewrite its rules to level the playing field.  When one network produces its own political channel under the guise of ‘fair and balanced’ the rules of engagement need to be re-evaluated.  Olbermann isn’t one of my favorites but fair is fair.  Talk about bringing a totebag of David Sedaris books to a knife fight! (Thanks, Jon Stewart.)  Reinstate Olbermann.  NBC is cannibalizing its own.



10 Thoughts to “Keith Olbermann Suspended for Violating Company Policy”

  1. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think the contributions are a big deal.

  2. Morris Davis

    I’m the plaintiff in a First Amendment lawsuit based on getting fired from a government job last year for writing opinion pieces in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, so I am a big free speech advocate. In the cases of Juan Williams and Keith Olbermann many people mistakenly label them free speech issues when they are really employment law issues. It appears that in both cases their employers had clear policies that prohibited their behavior, so if they felt that was too restrictive they shouldn’t have accepted employment with NPR and MSNBC.

    Here’s the transcript of a story I heard last night on NPR about Olbermann:

    DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Keith Olbermann has helped to propel MSNBC to its best ratings and highest profits in its history. As he found voice as a critic of President George W. Bush’s military involvement in Iraq, the success of his program became the cornerstone of MSNBC’s strategy to go liberal in primetime.

    Olbermann’s contributions, first reported today by Politico, were not part of the plan. Olbermann gave money to two Arizona Democrats running for Congress and to Jack Conway, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee from Kentucky for U.S. Senate.
    NBC News has a policy prohibiting staffers from political activities and from contributing to candidates or causes without express prior approval.

    MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement today that he first learned of the contributions last night, and he suspended Olbermann indefinitely, without pay.
    But Olbermann is not the only big cable personality to make contributions this year. Conservative FOX News host Sean Hannity gave $4,800 to a Long Island Republican, John Gomez, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives. And Hannity also gave $5,000 to the political action committee of Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. Hannity’s wife chipped in another $5,000 to Bachmann’s PAC. FOX News would not comment.

    This summer, executives made Hannity cancel his plans to participate in a fundraiser for Tea Party activists in Cincinnati. But the opinionated Hannity technically falls under FOX News’ programming division, not news. And previous remarks by FOX executives suggest they have no policy against political contributions by talk show hosts. Hannity was not publicly rebuked for his gifts.

    Olbermann’s show will air tonight with a substitute host, no word on when or whether he’ll return.

  3. @Slow,

    Do you really want your news filtered that much?

    I can remember when I was a kid asking my jock father why some sportscaster never said who he was rooting for. I got a big lecture on professional ethics, etc. The old man explained how it would just be considered unfair and unprofessional if the sportscasters in anyway revealed preference. I still remember it, all these years later.

    How is the news different? Do we hold our news casters to a lesser standard than sportcasters when I was a kid? If you give political contributions, that is an obvious bias. If you are fair and balanced, how can you show bias?

    TV and politics and just gotten too muddled for my tastes. I would feel much better about Faux News if they left news out of it and stopped with the fair and balanced schtick. I have no problem with there being a ‘conservative station’ or a ‘liberal station.’ Then when we tuned in we would expect to hear balance and lies. Too many people are misled.

  4. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    I’m just saying that for these guys like Hannity and Olbermann, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what side they’re on, so the contributions aren’t a big deal to me. As for professional journalism…..mostly died a while ago. For me, it took its last breath during the 2008 election season, but it was on life support before that.

    1. @Slow

      Surely there is someone out there ….somewhere. I agree its difficult to find. It is just a matter of degrees.

      The contributions don’t really bother me either. It just validates what you already knew…but that is the problem for me. I don’t like it and I never will.

      I dislike that there is no professional journalism and that news is filtered and that so many people are too f-ing stupid to realize they are being fed crap.

  5. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Hang around long enough, and things change. The way we communicate is changing very fundamentally, and I suppose the way people get their information is changing too. For the better? maybe not, who am I to say?

  6. marinm

    It’s really an internal disagreement within MSNBC. MNSBC is in the progressive tank. That’s well known and well established. MSNBC.COM is not. They want to remain neutral and professional and concentrate on news and not commentary, opinion or analysis. The organizations our under the same parent and same president and Olbermann has had very public disagreements with the president. So, it made for a good excuse to smack him down.

    So, this is something MSNBC needs to figure out on it’s own in terms of …are they in the tank or are they news? Or, can they maybe better deliniate the two for consumers to avoid a repeat?

    I’m ok with Olbermann doing his thang. It’s not like he’s doing well ratings wise and he’s the best thing MSNBC has going so if the network wants to keep him – sure. But, it’s less about journalistic integrity and more about the guy signed a contract and he needs to follow it to the letter.

    I have no idea why FoxNews is being brought into this. That arguement is very weak and gives me a headache trying to do the mental judo and backflips required to come close to stretching it to come close.

  7. marinm

    Suspension done. He’ll be back on Tuesday.

  8. Sooooo…..I wonder if their ratings went up while he was gone?

  9. Sorry, I should have asked, “HOW MUCH their ratings went up while he was gone?”

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