By now, anyone who actively follows politics and political shows on cable news knows that Keith Olbermann was suspended “indefinitely” by NBS news President Phil Griffin. He was suspended when it was revealed (by a Politico reporter who I do not fault), that Keith had made donations to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates last week just prior to the midterm elections. Two of the recipients of those donations had been guests on Countdown the same day the donations were made. It is NBC news policy that political donations by their employees are not allowed without prior notification to Mr Griffin and, it is inferred, permission granted. Keith did not follow those rules and was therefore punished for this.
On the black and white surface of these actions, I find no reason to be upset. In fact, when I first read about it, my reaction was to be more disappointed with Keith for risking his show like that. For all the criticizing that we on the left do of media outlets like Fox News & their many many many examples of bias and obvious support for conservative politicians and ideals, NBC news and it’s cable sister MSNBC have tried to maintain higher standards. Yes, MSNBC has hired prime time hosts who are openly liberal. That is fine. They don’t make any claims otherwise. Their three hour morning show is hosted by an overtly stated conservative opinion host, Joe Scarborough. In between the am opinion show and the prime time opinion shows they certainly have news anchors that show no bias at all. So I can see why Mr Griffin felt he had to discipline Keith for this breach of their employment contract. They might openly support liberal leaning hosts, but they certainly don’t want to go the way of Fox and be viewed as an unofficial communication arm of Democratic politicians. And they aren’t. Keith was correct on his show after the Comedy Central hosted Rally For Sanity/Fear to call out Jon Stewart on the false equivalency games he keeps playing by comparing MSNBC to Fox. MSNBC is still fact based. Fox is not and don’t even try to argue otherwise given how many of their hosts talked non stop about the very QUICKLY debunked story about President Obama’s Asian trip and how much it was supposedly costing per day. Fox repeated an unsourced story from a newspaper in INDIA. That embarrassing display across their programming this week should be enough to prove that they are a propaganda outlet at best.
So MSNBC wants to be better than that, even while having opinion oriented hosts. As such, I wont even bother making the (false) comparison between their standards and the many records of Fox employee’s donations made without retribution.
HOWEVER….Mr Griffin is not quite being honest here. At best he is applying a double standard to Keith vs to any other members of the NBS news family anchors. At worst he is punishing Keith just for being Keith and meting out a harsher punishment on him because he basically has an axe to grind with him. My sinking feeling of disappointment at Keith, turned to abject rage at MSNBC as more and more information came out. And Mr Griffin’s justifications are starting wear thinner and thinner as more is learned. Politico, to it’s credit, has kept on digging into political contributions of NBS news employees. Bypassing the ‘contributors’ who are only sometimes paid guests on their shows or guest hosts (of which MANY have donated to campaigns in the last five years) and just focusing on the full time anchors, it turns out that CNBC’s Larry Kudlow donated to a GOP Congressional campaign in May 2009. At the time I am writing this, there has been no response from Mr Griffin about why Mr Kudlow has not been disciplined. Also, Joe Scarborough has made donations in 2006 (that was excused as being before the rule) and then again in 2010 also to GOP candidates. The initial excuse presented by Mr Griffin to this was to state that Joe is a Opinion Commentator vs a News Anchor so the rules do not apply to him in the same way.
I’m sorry, but What The Fuck?!
Yep, it was right there that my head exploded and any semblance of a benefit of the doubt that I was trying to apply to MSNBC was lost. I joined the ever growing twitter throng of rage directed at Phil Griffin. I signed the petition to tell MSNBC to put Keith back on the air ASAP. A petition, by the way, which had over 75,000 signatures in just a few hours. There have been rumblings for awhile about tension between Keith and management. Hey, he’s a passionate, egotistic tv personality. That was a GIVEN. Should he have made those donations? No, probably not. It seems so contradictory to his prior stance of not even VOTING because he didn’t want to be perceived as being unable to properly investigate and criticize someone he supported. Shoot, his fans gave him lots of crap for that stance, but apparently it’s a not uncommon stance for news people to take. So yeah, he stepped in it. But did he step in it to the tune of an “indefinite” suspension? OH hell no. Not unless those other guys were too! And really, “indefinite”? I know another former MSNBC anchor who got one of those sentences handed down. David Schuster. Months later and he is still in media purgatory with nary a tweet heard out of him. Why couldn’t they have said a week or two weeks? Why isn’t that defined in this very strict employment rule of theirs? What exactly is Keith supposed to DO to earn back his show? We, his loyal fans, have no clue. And that’s not very smart. I know many who are boycotting the channel altogether until he returns. And that only serves to hurt other hosts who are pretty much in their hobs thanks to Keith. Like Rachel Maddow & Lawrence O’Donnell. I’m not doing that. I’m watching Rachel because I adore her & don’t want her to suffer for management’s stupidity.
Bottom line? Keith screwed up. But this punishment is too severe and not being fairly applied across ALL full time NBS news anchors. So Phil Griffin screwed up more. And I won’t watch or record Countdown until Keith is back. I will buy Keith’s new book this weekend to show him my support in the best way I know. Because Keith is one of the main reasons I could maintain some sanity during the Bush years. The least I can do is stand by him now given how long he stood up for us. Your point has been made MSNBC. You are not Fox, and we are very happy about that. Now bring Keith back.