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Olbermann Suspended Indefinitely for Political Contributions


"I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."

According to a statement from MSNBC president Phil Griffin, host Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely without pay for political contributions he made to Democratic candidates.

"I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night," Griffin said. "Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."

(Read our original report)

MSNBC policies require employees to make the network aware of, and seek prior approval for, any political activity that could pose a conflict of interest. Its rules specifically mention campaign contributions as reportable activity.

Olbermann admitted today that he had contributed $2,400 (the maximum single donation allowed) to three different Democratic candidates this election cycle, for a total of $7,200 worth of campaign contributions.

“One week ago, on the night of Thursday October 28 2010, after a discussion with a friend about the state of politics in Arizona, I donated $2,400 each to the reelection campaigns of Democratic Representatives Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords,” Olbermann said. “I also donated the same amount to the campaign of Democratic Senatorial candidate Jack Conway in Kentucky.”

(View the Federal Election Commission filings for Grijalva, Giffords, and Conway.)

He defended his actions by saying he didn't encourage anyone else to follow suit.

When the story broke Friday morning many wondered if Olbermann had informed Griffin of the contributions. Griffin's statement and actions today seem to suggest he didn't.

According to the Huffington Post, the relationship between Griffin and Olbermann has been historically shaky. For example, Olbermann once told the New Yorker, "Phil thinks he's my boss."

Recently, Griffin responded to that sentiment by telling New York Magazine,"Keith doesn't run the show." He added, "I do a lot of things he doesn't like. I do a lot of things he does."

The suspension comes at a time when Olbermann's show "Countdown" is facing ratings challenges from other MSNBC shows. While Olbermann is still the network's top-rated host, in a story on Olbermann's admission this morning, Mediaite wondered if "the success of Rachel Maddow (beating Olbermann in the demo last month), and Lawrence O’Donnell may mean the new bosses will be far less understanding of these types of issues that arise with Olbermann when, and if, he went rogue last week."

The guessing seems to be over.


Conservative Weekly Standard columnist, and regular Fox News contributor, Bill Kristol has come out in support of Olbermann and against MSNBC:

First, he donated money to candidates he liked. He didn’t take money, or favors, in a way that influenced his reporting.

Second, he’s not a reporter. It’s an opinion show. If Olbermann wants to put his money where his mouth is, more power to him.

Third, GE, the corporate parent of MSNBC, gives money to political organizations. GE executives and, I’m sure, NBC executives give money. Why can’t Olbermann?

Perhaps Olbermann violated NBC News “policy and standards.” But NBC doesn’t have real news standards for MSNBC—otherwise the channel wouldn’t exist. It’s a little strange to get all high and mighty now.

But there’s now a Republican House, and perhaps GE is trying to curry favor by dumping Olbermann?

Republicans of the world, show you believe in the free expression of opinion! Tell the crony corporatists at NBC—keep Keith!

Politico is reporting that Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation and a previous fill-in for Rachel Maddow, will fill in for Keith Olbermann tonight.


TV Newser reports that, "Insiders we’ve talked to say Olbermann won’t be back," while Gawker sites a similar anonymous source who makes the interesting claim that NBC's policies don't apply to MSNBC:

"The standards department has told us that MSNBC doesn't answer to NBC News standards," the insider said. "They don't have coverage over MSNBC. They used to, back before MSNBC went political, but at some point it became too hard and MSNBC was taken out of their portfolio. As far as I know, there are no ethical standards at MSNBC. And if NBC says MSNBC is supposed to be living up to the NBC News standards, that's a preposterous lie."

This is a breaking news story. Updates will be added.

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