Keith OIbermann, Widely Defended, Will Return to MSNBC

olbermann's suspensionFear not liberals -- Keith Olbermann is coming back.

According to media reports, Olbermann's suspension for violating the network's ethics rules that forbid donations to political candidates without prior permission will end soon. MSNBC head Phil Griffin said Olbermann, who was suspended indefinitely without pay on Nov. 5, has been punished enough.

"After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night's program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy," Talking Points Memo quotes Griffin as saying in a statement. "We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night."

"Outrageous" and "Silly"

The news should come as a relief to Olbermann's admirers who have argued that the General Electric (GE) cable network overreacted to revelations about his donations to three Democratic congressional candidates. Indeed, MSNBC's suspension of Olbermann was condemned throughout the media. A petition calling for his reinstatement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee collected more than 250,000 signatures.

Writing on Huffington Post, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said the action by the cable channel was "outrageous." Olbermann's MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow called on her bosses to end the suspension immediately, saying he had been punished enough. CNN's Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor, called MSNBC's action "silly."

Daily Kos
opined, "CNN's ratings are in the gutter. I'm sure they could use the boost in the ratings that Olbermann would provide." Business Insider's Henry Blodget called the NBC News policy that Olbermann ran afoul of "bizarre." Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine pointed out sarcastically that the fact Olbermann -- who makes no effort to hide his liberal sympathies -- donated money to Democrats was hardly a shock. "It's not as if Olbermann was objective," he writes. "We all know where he stood. I say he should put his money where is mouth is. He just shouldn't have hidden it or be made to do so."

A Bad Idea

Still, Olbermann's admirers are missing the bigger point here. His $2,400 donations to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Representatives Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords are permitted under the First Amendment. Olbermann, who reportedly earns $7.5 million a year, could easily afford to donate to many more endangered Democrats. But his donations were a bad idea.

Flawed though it may be, the policy of NBC News was designed to combat the notion that its employees can use its airwaves for personal political gain. It's the same reason why CNBC, which GE also owns, makes guests disclose whether they own stock in any companies that they are discussing. MSNBC continues to battle the perception -- somewhat deserved -- that it is a cheerleader for the Democrats.

Though News Corp. (NWS) was singled out for particular scorn after making two $1 million donations to Republican-leaning organizations, all media companies play politics. As noted in August, GE channeled 59% of its $1.62 million in donations to Republican political entities. Olbermann's admirers argue that his error is nothing compared with how News Corp. has turned Fox News Channel into a front for the Republicans. That does not change the fact, however, that Olbermann made an error.

As I wrote before, Olbermann clearly didn't think through what he was doing. Political contributions are a matter of public record. Somebody, somewhere would figure out what he had done. He made no effort to hide it either and argues that he had never donated before and not solicited any donations.

One of the reasons why he may not have been more generous toward Democrats was the NBC News policy that would have required him to ask permission of his bosses before contributing. His bosses might have told him no, particularly in the case of Grijalva, who appeared on Countdown With Keith Olbermann on the same day that the cable news host donated to his campaign. Grijalva says he is saddened that Olbermann is in trouble and offered to return the money.

MSNBC Is Left With Few Good Alternatives

Olbermann put his bosses in a terrible bind. Whatever decision they made was going to either upset liberals (if they fired him) or conservatives (if they gave him a slap on the wrist). MSNBC employees, though, must be taught that there are consequences to breaking the rules, even for hosts of TV shows that attract more than 1 million viewers. The looming deal with Comcast (CMCSA) only adds to MSNBC's dilemma and raises questions about Olbermann's future with the network.

The broadcaster's relationship with the network reportedly is rocky, and he has apparently burned bridges with previous employers. Olbermann, who rescued the network from ratings oblivion may, as my former colleague Jeff Bercovici noted, decide to resign. That could be the best outcome for all involved.

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Bringing him back? WHY??? He is terrible.

November 08 2010 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Keith Olbermann: horrible sports commentator, worse political commentator.

November 08 2010 at 6:49 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

hmmmmffpt,,,just goes to show that apparently msnbc has a MUCH higher standard for it's employees,,BHahahaha,,,,

November 08 2010 at 6:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Keith Obermann acts like a pompus arrogant ass. He is no different than Bill O'Reilly on Fox with one huge exception. MSNBC uses Obermann as an anchor for news reporting. He should never be allowed in any situation where unbiased (as impossible as it seems these days)news reporting is expected from it's audience. To even sugguest that Obermann is a news reporter is outragous and insulting. Give him is own opinionated show like O'Reilly and never put him in the same news room with Tom Brokaw. This man should have stuck with sports reporting on ESPN where is sarcastic humor was endearing and sometimes even humorous. We have to many serious problems in this country to have Chuckles the clown reporting them with his absolute and unabashed left wing bias.

November 08 2010 at 6:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Hey, I fully agree that MSNBC's suspension of Olbermann was "outrageous" and "bizarre" - but it really wasn't any more "outrageous" or "bizarre" than most of the jibes made by Olbermann on the Countdown. I occasionally watch that show just for the entertainment value. Stephen Colbert as a caricature of an off-the wall conservative commentator is a pale shadow of Keith Olbermann's caricature of a looney-tunes, completely divorced from any semblance of reality, liberal commentator. He's HILARIOUS! What's even more HILARIOUS is that he appears to sincerely believe that he is so much smarter than everyone on the right. It's just too much.

November 08 2010 at 5:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if Fox News REQUIRES its employees to donate to Republicans

November 08 2010 at 5:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

My, my, Olberman returning to MSNBC will surely send a shiver up the leg of Chris Matthews, and all of the several people who watch MSNBC. These clowns continually spread liberal lies like it was real news. No wonder their viewership is in the tank.

November 08 2010 at 5:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to banjone's comment

On which planet do you live?

November 08 2010 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who is keith Oberman?

November 08 2010 at 5:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to nokabosh's comment

He may very well be your daddy!

November 08 2010 at 5:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

olberdork was sorely missed by all 25 ppl who watch his show.

November 08 2010 at 4:58 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply


November 08 2010 at 4:54 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bill's comment

Bill, you are just as much as a pompas ass as he is.. I'm only watching this show tonight to hear what he has to say... and it isn't much except a lot of hatred and lies. I don't even think Lefties watch his show.. it has to be FAR LEFT idiots out there!

November 09 2010 at 8:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply