Keith Olbermann will be back on the air Tuesday night after a Friday “indefinite” suspension has been lifted. The suspension was for donating money to three Democratic candidates this year, a violation of NBC News policy.
“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,” Phil Griffin, MSNBC president, said in a statement.
Olbermann’s prime time show “Countdown” is considered the liberal answer to Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” and has is the anchor of MSNBC’s prime time lineup. The show has led the network to beating CNN in primetime on most nights. However, the liberal focus has led to much criticism of MSNBC and, in turn, NBC.
While Olbermann is paid for more than just reading the news like a regular anchor, many in the business realize there’s a conflict with a on air personality who anchors election night coverage, which is usually NOT done by the opinion pundits of the networks. “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News Channel’s #1 show, was pre-empted election night. Conservative host Bill O’Reilly appeared from time to time for analysis, but was not anchoring the coverage.
Olbermann’s suspension also shows MSNBC as a thorn in the back of parent company NBC. At the 2008 Republican Convention, when speakers talked about liberal bias in the media, convention attendees started chanting “NBC! NBC!” even though that criticism should have been directed at MSNBC. NBC News considers itself an unbiased news operation, while MSNBC has an admittedly left leaning bias. This has led to tension between the two news entities.
But Olbermann had defenders in the liberal world. Many online petitions were started. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee set up a petition Friday after the suspension was announced. Within two days, 250,000 people had signed it. Others used Twitter to voice their opinion.
On her self-titled MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow stated that the network’s donation policy and its enforcement is proof that MSNBC is a “news operation” while Fox News is a “policitcal operation.” She used Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity as the example, since he has donated thousands to Republican candidates.
“Let this incident lay to rest forever, the facile, never-true-in-any-way, lazy conflation of Fox News, and what the rest of us do for a living,” Maddow said. “Everybody likes to say, ‘It’s all the same. Fox and MSNBC, mirror images of each other.’ Let this lay that to rest forever.”
During the suspension, Olbermann, who’s known for being a difficult anchor to manage, stayed quiet. He declined interview request and had nothing to say on the suspension or eventual return to TV. However, Sunday afternoon, Olbermann posted to his Twitter account, thanking fans for their support.