Olbermann Suspended For Political Donations
At first glance, it seems like a joke that Keith Olbermann has been suspended for giving campaign contributions to three liberal politicians. After all, his radical beliefs are no secret - he's the most outspoken of the hosts at MSNBC.
"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," MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement.
But when you're giving money to people who also appear as guests, it creates a reasonable assumption that the airwaves are being used for the purpose of pushing the host's personal agenda.
First reported by Politico and confirmed by Federal Election Commission filings, the primetime television host gave $2,400 – the maximum individual amount allowed – to each of the campaigns of Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway, and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords.
Conway lost his bid to Republican Rand Paul while Grijalva eked out a win over Tea Party-backed candidate Ruth McClung for a fifth term. Grijalva found himself in an increasingly competitive race after he announced his support of a boycott of Arizona businesses in response to the state's controversial new immigration law and often appeared on Olbermann's show where he found a sympathetic audience. CNN, meanwhile, has yet to declare a winner in Giffords' race, but the Democrat currently holds about a 3,000-vote lead with all precincts reporting.
Despite his status as an opinion guy and not a news guy, the donations can realistically be viewed as a conflict of interest.
The contributions may have violated an NBC policy that requires employers of the news organization to obtain permission ahead of any political donations or activities that could be deemed as a conflict of interest. CNN institutes a similar policy.
Are his donations any different than Rupert Murdoch's to the GOP?
Olbermann, as well as MSNBC executives, was a vocal critic of the $1 million donation by Fox News' parent News Corp. to the Republican Governor's Association earlier this year, saying at the time, "We now have another million reasons Fox News is the Republican news channel."