Keith Olbermann is many things. Until now, I didn't figure that moron was one of them.
I may have been horribly wrong. At any rate, MSNBC's liberal firebrand -- amid a whole cable channel of them -- is sitting on the bench, sans paycheck, "indefinitely," according to management.
Benched for being a moron. And for giving maximum contributions to three political candidates, all of whom he had as guests on his Countdown program.
That's a gross violation of a pretty unambiguous NBC News policy. It's also a gross violation of common sense for anyone who calls himself a journalist.
It's one thing to have a point of view as a reporter or news personality. It's entirely another to be "in the tank" for one -- or several -- of the people or entities you cover.
OLBERMANN, whether he thinks so or not, nevertheless has given the strongest impression that he's absolutely, positively in the tank. Politico, which broke the story of the TV host's faux-est of journalistic "pas" reports on the aftermath:
MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely without pay after POLITICO reported that he made three campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.GETTING good ratings is one thing. As far as I'm concerned, the lengths to which America's cable-news outfits have gone to obtain them neither is good for journalism nor good for the civic life of the country.
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.
Chris Hayes, the Washington editor for The Nation and a previous fill-in for Rachel Maddow, will fill in for Olbermann tonight, MSNBC confirmed.
Olbermann is one of MSNBC’s most recognizable faces, and has emerged as one of the country’s most prominent liberal commentators. A former ESPN star, Olbermann’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” started in 2003 as a traditional news show but evolved into a left-leaning opinion program – and in some ways, led the network into its new identity as the cable-news voice of the left and an attempt to be a counterweight to Fox News.
Inside MSNBC, employees were shocked at the news of Olbermann’s suspension. Despite a reputation for a prickly personality off-air, Olbermann was given wide berth inside the network because of his stature – and his ratings.
Insiders were stunned that Griffin moved so swiftly to yank one of the network’s true stars off the air, and some suspected that the recent tensions with NBC News, which has grown increasingly uneasy with its sister network’s more ideological stance, contributed to the swift decision. Some have even speculated that Comcast’s coming merger with NBC Universal has heightened sensitivities about MSNBC’s ideological profile.
MSNBC has branded Olbermann as a prominent face in its new “Lean Forward” marketing campaign. He tripled MSNBC’s ratings at 8 p.m. In the past two years, MSNBC’s more opinionated hosts have helped propel it past CNN in prime time, and even lately during the daytime, too.
Despite MSNBC’s embrace of a more opinionated format, NBC News has a policy against its employees making political contributions – and it appears that Olbermann ran afoul of that policy, even by contributing to candidates he gave a platform on his show, like Grijalva.
In addition, Olbermann has been a critic of the political donations made by Fox News’s parent company, News Corp., which contributed $1 million each to a pair of organizations trying to defeat Democratic candidates.
Griffin also tweaked rival network Fox over the contributions. “Show me an example of us fundraising,” Griffin told The New York Times last month.
Basically, how much is a soul worth -- either human or institutional?
If MSNBC's is worth anything anymore, Keith Olbermann, the sports commentator turned liberal news host, needs to be taken off the bench . . . and put on waivers.
No, forget that. He just needs to be flat-out released.