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Olbermann suspended for making campaign contributions

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Casablanca

This story seems odd on a number of levels.

First, NBC’s rules, which apparently require journalists to get permission from their bosses before contributing to or otherwise participating in political campaigns, are pretty ridiculous. (News organizations have a wide variety of policies regarding this sort of thing, from anything goes at FOX to above the fray appearance of objectivity at all costs at places like the New York Times). Is anybody under the impression that Keith Olbermann is supposed to be maintaining an appearance of objectivity, whatever that means in this crazy mixed up world where the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans? (It’s unclear whether Olbermann did get permission before contributing a combined total of a little more than $7K to two congressional and one senate campaign).

Second, Olbermann’s flouting of his organization’s rules, however ridiculous those rules may be — if he did flout them; again this isn’t clear — seems tactically very unwise. His influence as a commentator is exponentially more valuable to candidates whom he favors than the piddling sums he’s legally allowed to contribute to them. Making such contributions without clearing them first creates yet another bogus issue for the Scream Machine to whinge about as it goes on about Mainstream Media Bias etc etc.

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  • Hogan

    Can’t wait to hear the Juan Williams Chowder and Marching Society weigh in on this.

  • Scott Lemieux

    You beat me to it. I can understand this policy applied to newscasters, but who thinks Olberman is neutral?

    Anyway, like the first commenter I’m appalled that his First Amendment rights have been violated! [/every conservative talking about Juan Williams.]

  • Malaclypse

    As Atrios points out, it appears there are some exceptions to this rule.

  • Zifnab

    Dude. Republicans just took the House. This means if MSNBC wants to get any sweet, delicious interviews with GOoPer Chairmen or other high muckity mucks, they’ve got to make the ritual sacrifice.

    Phil Donahue went down the same way. It’s just the Republican Political Machine at work.

  • Joe

    My main problem is that when you interview someone (Reps. Raul Grijalva) you give money to, the viewer really should be told. Chris Hayes told us when he interviewed people with some family connection and I would sorta like to know that KO gave money to this guy when he interviews him as he did repeatedly. Am I alone on that?

    • Ed

      The super-ethical Chris Hayes was eager for KO’s seat – in labor disputes there are unflattering terms for such people — but it turns out he forked over some dough in the past, too.

      • Joe

        He did so before he worked for MSNBC I’m told, so the obligation to tell the company about it as a host doesn’t apply.

        Why being eager for a job is a problem is unclear to me. If you have some facts that he did something negative while so desiring, you can let me know, but all I see here is snark.

        Rachel Maddow supported KO but noted he broke the rules. CH not working for them at the time, did not.

        • Larkspur

          My understanding is that Hayes declined to fill in as host because he was uncomfortable with the situation, and that any prior contributions he may have made weren’t pertinent.

        • Ed

          Joe: You may not be aware of it, but it is generally considered unbecoming to hasten to take a fellow’s gig under such circumstances. Hayes himself would disagree with you, since he has apparently told the world via Twitter that he didn’t feel right taking the job.

          Larkspur: It is true that the NYTimes said that and Hayes has said that, but given the description of events in other accounts, I would say that the jury is out on what really happened. However, I hadn’t read the Times story or Hayes’ tweet when I first posted, and had I done so I’d not have been nearly so categorical.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    This feels like a worse kick in the nuts than losing the House to the republicans.

  • wengler

    I want Obama to be impeached over this.

    • Malaclypse

      I heard that if we join with the Republicans to impeach Obama, Hillary will kick Biden in the jimmies, declare herself President (sorta like Al Haig), and immediately end all foreign wars while implementing single-payer health care.

      • Ed

        HRC called for a HOLC back in 2008. I might settle for that.

  • hickes01

    Keith has a history of self-implosion. I’m a fan, but I’m not surprised to hear this.

    STH

  • Larkspur

    The “indefinite” part of the suspension perplexes me. Even supposing that Olbermann flat-out broke the rules in way that other employees (like Scarborough) never, ever have, well, hell – you suspend him for a couple of days, or a week. It’s like the flip side of being “thrown under the bus”: it seems like in recent months, any time someone in political life gave a mean look to someone else in political life, the person on the receiving end of the mean look screamed OMG, I been thrown under the bus! That’d be followed by some sort of chatter about political correctness having gotten out of hand, which leads to (following the zero tolerance playbook) the absolute requirement that the miscreant, or the person who has the appearance of miscreancing (shut up) must be escorted immediately to the bus, to be thrown thereunder.

    So after all my tsk-tsking about people (especially wingnuttish people) blowing things out of proportion to enhance some sort of counterfeit sense of victimhood, I have this weird feeling that MSNBC has gone out to the parking lot and started up the bus. Now my head hurts, because this is not a throwing-under-the-bus level event.

    There are a lot of things big corporations do that are patently silly. Like magazine covers that are photoshopped so poorly that you can only laugh. Gwyneth’s head gets attached to a smaller sized body, but they kind of forget her neck, so they comp in extra hair, etc. I want to say, jeebus, people, you have zillions of dollars, but you employ no one who has the stones to say “Holy crap, that cover sucks” or “Holy crap, suspending Olbermann indefinitely? For that? You really want to die taking that hill?”

    Damn, I picked the wrong Friday to stop drinking.

  • Blume

    Does no one else think there’s a strong possibility that this is all planned?

    • Paul Campos

      That did occur to me but it seemed too much like issuing an intentional walk with the bases loaded.

      • Joe

        Okay, so he’s not Bonds, so that isn’t the case here?

  • Blume

    Just saw that he’s Deborah Solomon’s ‘Questions’ interview this week as well, which also makes me think there’s a plan.

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  • Larkspur

    Rachel Maddow weighs in on her show tonight.

  • calling all toasters

    Wait… your boss has say-so over what political contributions you can make? Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

    • efgoldman

      Its much more common than you might think. I’m a low-level hourly drudge in a major, very conservative (not politically – conservative as in investments)financial company. I’m not licensed, which brings its own limitations. But I have to at least report any political contributions I make. (They can also control whether and what outside jobs employees have. Don’t like it? You’re free to leave).

      When Benen posted about this, he said it was standard clause in Keith’s contract that he couldn’t contribute. I have no way of knowing whether that’s true, or whether Mourning Joe’s contract has the same clause.

      Your outrage may be real, but its of the same importance as the faux outrage of teatards about Juan Williams or anyone else who’ fired from private employment for violating the conditions thereof.

      The other thing is, as much as I’ve liked Keith since I first encountered him as a local sports anchor in LA, then Boston, then ESPN (not sure of the sequence), he’s had a penchant for burning bridges. There’s got to be some reason that he was the only past ESPN anchor not invited back for the big anniversary celebrations.

      • efgoldman

        My typing really sux at one ayem after a tough work week. Sorry.

        • Larkspur

          Well, according to Maddow, “other” MSNBC employees (she did not name anyone, but I assume she meant Scarborough) had requested and received permission under the previous management. Olbermann did not get permission. She points out that the rule is clear, and that MSNBC is bound by its own rules, even if FOX News doesn’t even have such a rule, much less an inclination to enforce one. And she asks that Olbermann be returned to host Countdown. She maketh the sense, our Rachel does. Olbermann’s bridge-burning tendencies aside, I just don’t see this as a bridge-burning event. He gets suspended, he comes back, we are reminded exactly why FOX News doesn’t qualify as an independent news source, and that should do it. I don’t know if it will do it, but it should.

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