MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann for allegedly giving donations to three political candidates this election season. Olbermann works for MSNBC as one of their political correspondents, often weighing in with his opinion on what is going on in the political world.
According to Politico.com, Olbermann was suspended without pay after MSNBC President Phil Griffin became aware of the donations. They were pretty quick to react to the situation, and decided that it was best to suspend Olbermann indefinitely without pay. The whole situation is not going to look good for the network, though, and that has to be what they were worried about.
Polico.com also reported the three candidates who received contributions from Olbermann (all Democrats). They were Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway. Conway lost his election for a position in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday (in Kentucky), but that doesn’t seem to be point MSNBC is trying to make at this time.
Countdown with Keith Olbermann is a show that MSNBC has been running on weeknights at 8 p.m., and though it is pretty far behind Fox News and their ratings, it has a distinct set of core viewers who tune in to hear Olbermann’s political views. Recent topics on his show included President Bush defending waterboarding, Sarah Palin potentially running for U.S. president, and stories about the Tea Party and Karl Rove. All of these stories have direct political connotations (obviously), and Olbermann was supposed to be able to provide an unbiased view.
To his credit, Olbermann isn’t denying any of the political contributions he has been accused of making, and in fact he has admitted to doing it. The problem isn’t that he donated $2,400 (the maximum allowed) to each of the three candidates, nor that they are all representing the Democratic Party. The problem is that it might appear to people that he is playing favorites with candidates, and that some of his stories might get slanted a specific direction because of an inherent bias.
There is going to be a lot of bad press for MSNBC because of this, but they may have acted quickly enough for this to get brushed over in the end. It’s unknown at this time if the network will bring Olbermann back after this suspension, or if he will be able to find another political job if that does happen. Right now, though, he is surely to become the topic of quite a few late night jokes and an attack point for political shows on other networks.