Olbermann Suspended!

Keith Olbermann, MSNBC’s primetime firebrand host, has been suspended indefinitely for violating the ethics policies of his employer earlier this year when he donated to three Democrats seeking federal office, MSNBC announced Friday.


MSNBC TV President Phil Griffin:

“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 must have known the policy. He must have known that political donations are public information. What was he thinking? This is really going to hurt MSNBC’s ratings.

Note that Griffin didn’t fire Olbermann.

UPDATE: Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan have made campaign contributions. When will they be suspended?


-David Drumm (Nal)

72 thoughts on “Olbermann Suspended!

  1. WOW!!,Do the Reubs have reach or what? And the channel up the dial gives away Millions of dollars in airtime away to the Republican party let alone the Financial contribution that was such a big deal.And the on air fund raising that candidates had done during this election cycle.And the fund rasising some of their guest had done,WOW!!

  2. I strongly dislike one of the persons to whom Olbermann donated; however, he should be able to donate to whomever he chooses and should not have to get his employer’s permission.

  3. From a huffington post article:

    Griffin’s statement underscores that it was Olbermann’s failure to obtain approval, and not the actual political donations, that prompted the suspension.

    The move is doubly significant in that it represents a major development in the relationship between Griffin and Olbermann, who once told the New Yorker, “Phil thinks he’s my boss.”

    “Keith doesn’t run the show,” Griffin told New York Magazine recently. “I do a lot of things he doesn’t like. I do a lot of things he does.”


  4. Unrelated,but still related:

    Iowa Judges Ousted
    Categories: State races, Elections

    04:46 am

    November 3, 2010

    by Korva Coleman

    Iowa voters decided to remove three State Supreme Court justices who’d overturned an Iowa ban on same sex marriage last year. Out are Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit. The full seven member panel unanimously rejected the law but not all members faced a retention vote. The defeated judges issued a joint statement, thanking Iowans for their support and laying blame for their defeat


  5. Sounds like he said the wrong thing about his boss. His boss didn’t like it and is now making a point. Olbermann will get his job back, with a clear understanding of who calls the shots. Just guessing.

  6. Daily Kos has a post showing that conservative Joe Scarborough also donated to a candidate. Wonder how MSNBC will say that is was different in that case? Of course, the difference is one is a conservative and one is a liberal.

  7. Olbermann’s show was not a new show and Olbermann is not a journalist nor is Maddow, O’Donnell or Schultze. They are commentators and as such should not be held to the same critera as real journalists as far as donations or message contents go.

    How I’ll exist without my Olbermann fix every night is a puzzle.

    The Tea Party has attacked the legislative, executive, and now the judicial branches of our government. We’re due for a coup.

  8. If I am reading the actual story properly, it’s not that he donated, which is permitted to do, it’s that he did not disclose it. He has said recently things to the effect of, “I do not have a dog in the race” and that he does not vote for candidates and he is impartial… while interviewing some of these guys, the same day some of those comments made was the same day he donated apparently too. Sad, Olberman is entertaining… but perhaps this means they will move up Maddow who is much more enjoyable than him anyhow.

    @ Anon Nurse – you’re likely spot-on.

  9. I wonder if the failure to get permission took place around the time his father became so ill …

    and what anon nurse said

  10. I’ve said for over three months he was out the door. This has more to do with his ratings that political contributions. Olberman was not the first to do this but looks to be the first to have been terminated because of it. Rachel Maddow is next.

  11. Let this be a lesson, do not write anything bad about Islam.

    Md. man sentenced for threats to mosque
    By Washington Post editors

    A 25-year-old Maryland man has been sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to threatening the members of a mosque in Illinois.

    The U.S. Department of Justice says Ilya Sobolevskiy was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Urbana.

    Authorities say Sobolevskiy pleaded guilty in August to violating the civil rights of members of the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center.

    According to authorities, Sobolevskiy wrote in an e-mail to a member of the mosque that he would “do WHATEVER it takes to eradicate Islam.”

    Judge David Bernthal called Sobolevskiy’s e-mail “an act of terror” and gave him the maximum possible sentence.

    — Associated Press


  12. I’d like to see a case on this go to court. The employer can restrict your right to free speech in many regards but I have never thought ones right to donate to candidates for media people was OK. I’d be for disclosure “I have an interview with X and I did contribute to his (his party)…”.

    I am bothered by the permission thing. If commentator x wants to donate to some dems and gets permission to do so but commentator y wants to donate to some republicans and permission is refused. I would think that would move it into another arena entirely, at least at the Federal level. Something akin to vote suppression (bad analogy I know) or a violation of the 14th Amendment.

  13. Bdaman
    1, November 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm
    I’ve said for over three months he was out the door. This has more to do with his ratings that political contributions. Olberman was not the first to do this but looks to be the first to have been terminated because of it. Rachel Maddow is next.

    You just said that to hurt my feelings knowing I’m a Maddow fan. I checked the ratings for Nov 3rd and in her time slot she beats everybody except FOX as Olbermann beats everybody but FOX in his. She beats Olbermann. The one who doesn’t do well at all is Matthews … Blitzer beats him at 5p and King beats him at 7p.

  14. lottakatz,

    I agree with you and those were my first thoughts as I was reading the article.

    Olbermann needs better representation during his next contract negotiations.

  15. @lottakaz – his speech was not restricted. His employer has a right to suspend him because they don’t like the deoderant that he uses or lots of other stupid reasons. He signed a contract that said he had to disclose and recieve permission to make donations to political candidates in exchange to keep recieving paychecks. Given that he is a very public figure, I am sure there are all sorts of quirky rules he has to follow in order to stay on the payroll. None of which is a restriction of his speech. Personally, I prefer to know the political bend of the person reporting my news… there is no such thing as journalist who is truly impartial… they are all lying when they say as much. Just be honest about it…

  16. Money $$$ is Free Speech for Corporations so as to bribe our elected officials, but not for Olbermann, it’s right there in the Constitution..!

    I know, “It’s in the Contract, Yossarian..!”

  17. Blouise I didn’t really, but there is a pattern. Lou Dobbs, Rick Sanchez, Jaun Williams, Dr Laura now Obie one Kanobi. Did I miss anybody?

    To shift gears have you seen the news out of Haiti? The Florida Dept. of Health has now put an advisory out to look for signs of Cholera. There will be a lot of people traveling to and from and it has about a five day development period. Ms. Blouise I want to know how all of that money was raised less than ten months ago and the people have nothing to show for it. This goes all the way back to Papa Doc. How can this be? The worst part, Virginie could be in the same area next week to close out the 2010 Hurricane season.


  18. Blouise,

    “The one who doesn’t do well at all is Matthews”

    That’s because he most likely has ADHD. He should take a dose of Ritalin before his show.


  19. Bdaman,

    I read the link … interesting that the strain is not Haitian … one wonders where it came from.

    One of our former Senators, now newly elected as Ohio Atty. General, Mike DeWine (R) did a lot of work for Haiti and I’m sure is still dedicated to the Haitian people … I’ll send him an email and ask for information as to where all the money is that was raised. He’s a relatively honest man, especially for a Republican out of the Ohio Republican Party … he’ll probably be glad for the interest.

    I’ll let you know.

    Snow east of us and expected tonight and tomorrow. So far no really bad storms but I’m prepared. Remember that I’m on Lake Erie just west of Cleveland proper … let me know what you see coming my way.

  20. Gotcha and yes please keep me informed. Also I am trying to come up with a list of worthy organizations other than Docs without Borders and the Red Cross. If he has any let him know I will endorse them in a report I plan to do in the coming days, thanks

    N Florida with wind chill values in the middle twenties tomorrow night. Well below normal. Could be a very interesting season.
    Temps near 60 now with a 20 degree drop after the sun sets.

  21. Every little bit helps in Hati,but this isn’t helping:

    Sen. Tom Coburn: Facts and fiction about the U.S.-Haiti relief effort
    By: Sen. Tom Coburn
    OpEd Contributor
    October 20, 2010

    With the Haiti recovery and reconstruction effort moving at an unacceptably slow rate, many are asking hard questions about the U.S. response, and rightly so.


    These people with their supposed morality,are sickening.

  22. Bda,

    N Florida with wind chill values in the middle twenties tomorrow night. Well below normal. Could be a very interesting season.
    Temps near 60 now with a 20 degree drop after the sun sets.


    Whoa … what does that do to the crops?

    I’m hunting for a DeWine email … calling political friends …

  23. Bda,

    Ok … got a good address and fired off an email. Hopefully I’ll have something in the next couple of days.

  24. From TPM
    Scarborough, Buchanan Also Made Political Contributions
    Jillian Rayfield | November 5, 2010

    But a search of OpenSecrets.org reveals that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan have also made contributions to political campaigns. Here’s what we found…

    In March 2006, Scarborough, who hosts the show Morning Joe, gave $4200 to Derrick Kitts (R-OR). And, as the Daily Kos points out, a month later Kitts was a guest on Scarborough’s show.

    Between 2005-2008, Pat Buchanan made five contributions to Republican candidates, totaling $2250.

  25. Bdaman:

    “Senator Coburn on O’Reilly correcting inaccurate reportings of Haiti aid legislation”

    The same station saying President Obamas India trip ,is costing $200 million dollars a day with 34 warships in tow with 200 planes,PLEASE!

  26. Nobody thought that Olbermann was objective; his job wasn’t to be objective. So there is no reason that he shouldn’t be allowed to donate to candidates.

    But even if he were an objective journalist, there is no reason that he shouldn’t be allowed to donate to candidates. Objective journalists obviously have opinions about what they report on, so why should they pretend, when they’re not at work, that they do not? As long as their reporting is objective, they are doing their job.

  27. I firmly believe this was a calculated move on KO’s part to stir up discussion about campaign contributions. Good for him!

  28. Matt Taibbi’s take on the subject:
    Olbermann Suspension is Lunacy

    Just quickly: I just found out about the suspension of Keith Olbermann for making political contributions. NBC apparently has some policy prohibiting journalists from donating to candidates, so they suspended him indefinitely without pay.

    I went online and read the news and found the inevitable commentary by ostensible experts on journalistic ethics, who are all lining up to whale on Olbermann. One quote I found in this Bloomberg piece:

    “Journalists who work for a news organization have an ethical responsibility to honor their guidelines and standards,” said Bob Steele who teaches journalism ethics at Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. “If NBC and MSNBC spelled out those guidelines clearly and Olbermann violated those guidelines, then he should pay the price.”

    He should pay the price? Is Bob Steele kidding? What the hell is wrong with people?

    We had a whole generation of journalists who sat by and did nothing while, for instance, George Bush led us into an idiotic war on a lie, plus thousands more who spent day after day collecting checks by covering Britney’s hair and Tiger’s text messages and other stupidities while the economy blew up and two bloody wars went on mostly unexamined… and it’s Keith Olbermann who should “pay the price” for being unethical? Because, and let me get this straight, he donated money, privately, to politicians?

    This is absurd even by GE’s standards. There is no reason, not even a theoretical one, why any journalist should be prevented from having political opinions and participating in election campaigns in his spare time. The policy would be ridiculous even if we were talking about an evening news anchor — because the only “ethical” question here is the issue of NBC wanting to preserve the appearance of impartiality and being unable to do so, because political contributions happen to be public record and impossible to hide from viewers.

  29. From Huffington Post
    Keith Olbermann Suspension Criticized By Reporters, Conservative Pundits
    First Posted: 11- 5-10 05:10 PM
    By Sam Stein

    The backlash against NBC’s decision to indefinitely suspend host Keith Olbermann without pay has been swift and vocal — and from some unlikely voices.

    Among media personalities and even straight-forward reporters, there has been a bit of shock over what was viewed as a knee-jerk punishment for a fairly minor ethical lapse. Bill Kristol, the longtime conservative scribe for the Weekly Standard, penned a blog post under the headline “Keep Keith!” extolling MSNBC’s brass for muzzling someone whose ideological leanings are fairly self-evident.

  30. More to the Story on Prison Sentence for MD Man who threatened Mosque:

    The lesson is not “watch what you say about Islam” but instead watch when you threaten to eradicate someone based on their religion:

    TPM features the text of the man’s email, which led to the 1 year prison sentence:

    “Close down the CIMIC [Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center] by May 12th, or it will be closed for you. the muslims that attend it are not to be seen in public with their beards or hijabs. tell them to get rid of such things. failure to comply will result in much tribulations for you and muslims in the region. i am not afraid to do whatever it takes to eradicate islam. WHATEVER it takes.”

    Pretty scary, huh? (link at sig)

  31. Methinks the backlash on this one is going to take all sorts of twists and turns … could get very interesting for GE and Phil Griffin.

    I haven’t heard a peep out of Olbermann yet and he knows some very, very good lawyers.

  32. Thanks for the updates, Elaine.

    (Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press

    by Kristina Borjesson (Paperback – Oct. 2004)

    Has anyone read it?)

  33. Blouise:

    I haven’t heard a peep out of Olbermann yet and he knows some very, very good lawyers.

    Maybe he’s waiting for one of them to get back from France.

  34. Tweet from Christopher Hayes:

    OK: I’m not filling in on Countdown tonight because I didn’t feel comfortable doing it given the circumstances.

  35. “According to the Center for Responsive Politics, GE made over $2 million in political contributions in the 2010 election cycle (most coming from the company’s political action committee). The top recipient was Republican Senate candidate Rob Portman from Ohio.”


    Well, well, well … isn’t that interesting. We’ll have to see what the new Senator from Ohio does once he reaches the Senate. Has he been bought and paid for? Let’s pay special attention to the committees he is assigned and to his votes. Ditto for all the other candidates GE paid.

  36. Here’s the MSNBC policy regarding political donations:

    From The Nation
    MSNBC Suspends Keith Olbermann
    Greg Mitchell
    November 5, 2010

    MSNBC’s policy, drafted in 2007, states that “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. 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.”

  37. Here’s an excerpt from a very interesting article at Think Progress:

    Think Progress
    UPDATED: Before Bush Donor Takeover Of MSNBC, Network Selectively Applies Rules To Suspend Olbermann
    By Lee Fang on Nov 5th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    UPDATED: Before Bush Donor Takeover Of MSNBC, Network Selectively Applies Rules To Suspend Olbermann

    UPDATED: We have been notified that Comcast has not yet officially taken over MSNBC/NBC Universal. Although Comcast has tentatively finalized a deal to purchase a majority stake in NBC, Comcast awaits final approval of the takeover from the Justice Department and from the Federal Communications Commission. A statement from Comcast reads: “The joint venture between Comcast and GE has not yet received regulatory approval. Comcast is not in any way involved with decisions made currently by NBC News.” However, once Comcast gains final approval from federal regulators to move forward, Comcast COO Steve Burke, a Bush fundraiser, will be placed at the helm of MSNBC and other NBC companies. Our original post inaccurately asserted that Comcast’s Burke was involved in the decision to fire Olbermann. We apologize for the error.

    Earlier today, MSNBC declared that it would be suspending progressive host Keith Olbermann because he violated NBC’s ethics rules by donating to three Democratic candidates for Congress. As many bloggers have noted, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has donated to Republican candidates for Congress while promoting the same candidate on air, but has never been disciplined. Moreover, Gawker notes that MSNBC has been exempt from the formal NBC ethics rules for years. It is still a mystery why MSNBC selectively applied NBC’s ethics rules to Olbermann. However, it important to realize that MSNBC has undergone a fundamental change in leadership in the last two months.

    Late last year, Comcast — the nation’s largest cable provider and second largest Internet service provider — inked a deal taking over NBC Universal, the parent company of MSNBC. Comcast moved swiftly to reshuffle MSNBC’s top staff. On September 26th of this year, Comcast announced perhaps the most dramatic shift, replacing longtime MSNBC chief Jeff Zucker with Comcast executive Steve Burke [Updated: The shift from Zucker to Burke has not taken place yet — Burke will preside over MSNBC once the Comcast merger is complete. We have been informed that no Comcast officials are currently involved in the decisions of NBC or MSNBC.]. Burke has given generous amounts to both parties — providing cash to outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) as well as to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and other top Republicans. But as Public Citizen has noted, Burke has deep ties to the Republican Party. Public Citizen’s report reveals that Burke served as a key fundraiser to President George Bush, and even served on Bush’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology:

    Comcast – the country’s largest provider of cable TV and broadband Internet services – has increased its political giving along with its mergers and acquisitions. CEO Brian Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the 2000 Republican Convention. Comcast Cable President Stephen Burke has raised at least $200,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign. […] Comcast’s political giving has increased along with its mergers and acquisitions. The company was a “platinum sponsor” at the 2000 GOP convention, and Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the Philadelphia event. Burke was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology in 2002.

    Why would Comcast be interested in silencing progressive voices? Historically, Comcast has boosted its profits by buying up various telecommunication and media content companies — instead of providing faster Internet or better services (overall, American broadband services are far slower than in many industrialized nations). Many of these mergers, as Public Citizen and Free Press have reported, have been allowed by regulators because of Comcast’s considerable political muscle. Comcast’s latest regulatory battle has been to oppose Net Neutrality — a rule allowing a free and open Internet — because the company would prefer to have customers pay for preferred online content.

    Olbermann has been a strong voice in favor of a free and open Internet. Republicans, on the other hand, have supported the telecommunication industry’s push to radically change the Internet so corporate content producers have the upper hand over start-ups like blogs, independent media, small businesses, etc. As Reuters has reported, the incoming Republican Congress has signaled that it will vigorously side with companies like Comcast against an open Internet.

  38. Sometimes someone asks a question that I find worth being asked.

    A quote from the the prior comment of Elaine M. on Nov. 5, 2010, at 10:07 pm is a question that I sense may outrank all others:

    “What the hell is wrong with people?”

    I ask myself, of myself, that sort of question before I ask a question of anyone else.

    I cannot really know anyone else well enough to ask such a question of anyone other than myself.

    For myself, and I can answer for no one else, my answer is itself a mere question of questions:

    “What the Hell is wrong with me? Why do I imagine what fills in the gaps in my observations which comprise my life encounters with other people? Why cannot I live in a future which is always not yet here? Why can I not understand myself, and perchance thereby understand everything else, doing so absolutely perfectly, without error or any possibility of error?”

  39. Oh really Howard?:

    The famously feisty MSNBC anchor got caught donating to Democrats—and was suspended by his boss. Howard Kurtz on the liberal talking head’s hypocrisy—and why it’s not as bad as Fox News.

    So is Keith Olbermann now the Worst Person in the World?

    No, but he made a really dumb mistake.


  40. It should be very clear now who is running our country. Big republican corporations. I think Keith Olberman is the most intelligent guy on tv now. He makes you think! and Investigate! How dare he!. Where is your moral indignation America? Sit back on your fat butts and let it haqppen. It’s good enough for Keith Olberma – but not for Scarboro and buchanan.

    Sylvia D.

  41. From Huffington Post
    MSNBC Wants Keith Olbermann Mea Culpa
    First Posted: 11- 7-10

    MSNBC suspended anchor Keith Olbermann on Friday for making contributions to Democratic candidates without obtaining prior approval from his superiors.

    Now, Politico’s Mike Allen reports that the suspension came about, not because Olbermann violated network policy — but because he wouldn’t apologize on-air:

  42. Tucker Carlson Sent Emails Posing As Keith Olbermann

    The Huffington Post | Jack Mirkinson First Posted: 11- 9-10 05:23 PM | Updated: 11-10-10 08:51 AM


    begin excerpt

    On Tuesday night, Yahoo’s Michael Calderone reached Carlson by phone. Carlson confirmed that he had, in fact, sent the emails posing as Olbermann.

    “Could you resist?” Carlson said. “It was just too funny. The flesh is weak.” end excerpt

    True colors?

  43. Buddha,

    In theory male sperm are worse swimmers than female sperm, so you’re probably right.

    We decided to try for a girl this time (It’d be the first female birth in my family in 13 some odd children). I won’t go into all the details, I was encouraged to drink more coffee and told to drink at least a beer a day. Life was tough.

    We’ll find out come Dec. if it worked or not.

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