Saturday, November 6, 2010

One Keith In Trouble!

I got the news last night that Keith Olbermann, one of my favorite commentators on television today (and not just because we share the same surname) has been suspended indefintely from MSNBC for donating money to three Democratic candidates. I'm really sad about this because he did on television what I do on this blog... give the right-wingers hell!

Olbermann acknowledged the donations in a statement to Politico, saying he gave the maximum legal donation of $2,400 to Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who waged an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate against Tea Party standard-bearer Rand Paul.

Like a lot of these news organizations, NBC News, parent of MSNBC-TV, prohibits political contributions by its journalists without prior approval of the president., a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft, also has a policy against its journalists contributing to political campaigns.

"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest," the NBC News policy reads. "Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the president of NBC News or his designee."

That is their stated policy, but here is my problem with this matter. I have never viewed Keith Olbermann as a reporter or journalist per se... I've always seen him as a commentator, much as in the same way I, myself, am not a journalist (at least, not on this blog). I'm a blogger with an opinion... an opinion that is probably far more to the left than anybody on television right now. Olbermann, is a admittedly liberal and progressive commentator, much in the same way as

Glenn Beck and Joe Scarborough (also a part of NBC) are conservative commentators. I'm sure that Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly over at Fox have donated money to the Tea Party and other Republican concerns. They've shown up and spoke at rallies all year long. Another network, another set of rules! But Joe Scarborough , a former Republican congressman, now talk show host and commentator, has been rumored to have also donated money to Republican campaigns this year and he is a member of the NBC family. So, will he be suspended too?

The donations to Grijalva and Giffords were made on October 28th, the same day that Grijalva appeared on Olbermann's show, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann". Grijalva won re-election on Tuesday, while Giffords (as of yesterday) was clinging to a narrow lead over Republican Jesse Kelly in a race that the Associated Press has not yet called. I hate these types of tight races that go on and on way after election day.

In a statement made last night , Olbermann said he did not encourage his viewers or other staff members to donate to the candidates. "I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns, nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level."

Commenting on the case, Rachel Maddow, his MSNBC collegue, whose show comes on right after Olbermann's, said the NBC News rules forbidding political contributions are part of what distinguishes MSNBC from Fox News, whose on-air personalities regularly contribute to political campaigns.

If this is true and this is indeed the policy, then Keith was being insubordinate and has been disciplined for it. Still, it's a shame because he is such an important liberal and progressive voice in the media. One of a very few in a field saturated with right-wing and Tea Party supporters.


Thom said...

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m going to take a contrarian position here. I’ll admit up front, I have no love for Olbermann, but I want to be convinced this was a firing offense. He committed no crime, and I seriously doubt he was the only MSNBC employee to pony up some loot for lefty candidates. Nobody with an IQ above 30 thinks Olbermann is either impartial or a journalist, so it’s not like his credibility was tarnished. He has none. His on-air advocacy for candidates provided far more assistance than a couple of grand quietly donated to their coffers.
If MSNBC has a written “ethics” policy requiring approval for donations, and he violated it, and that policy is being universally enforced, then MSNBC is fine. If they want to fire him for having lousy ratings and being one of the most hated people in broadcast television, then as long as they’ll be honest about it, that’s fine too. But if MSNBC is using this as a convenient excuse to unload him, and they’re turning blind eyes to others doing the same, then I have a problem with it.
If we are people who favor impartial justice, even for people we despise, then this is the stand we must take. It’s what distinguishes us from the people on his side, who base their judgments on a person’s ideology.

Arlene said...

Well Keith, I think your namesake should have been suspended. There was a clear violation of work rules and he should face the consequences. I like Obermann's show and I appreciate how he questions political situations. I think his commentary is insightful and solidly based on facts. I do see him as a journalist, researching news and passing it on to the public. I happen to agree with his interpretations frequently and I don't want him to tarnish his reputation by not taking responsibility for his error.


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