Today, Politico reported that MSNBC host Keith Olbermann made political contributions to three Democratic candidates — Kentucky senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona House members Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. Following the story, MSNBC President Phil Griffin released a statement this afternoon stating that Olbermann has been suspended without pay:
I became aware of Keith’s political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay.
MSNBC’s policies governing its employees states:
Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee.
It’s unclear what harm Griffin determined resulted from Olbermann’s contributions. Politico noted that Olbermann donated to Grijalva on the same day that Grijalva appeared as a guest on his show. In his defense Olbermann said, “I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns, nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level.”
Atrios reports that Pat Buchanan, a very frequent guest on MSNBC and an official contributor, has also made a number of donations to Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, Steve Benen observes that, while Olbermann made his donations in a personal capacity, News Corp. — Fox News’ parent company — “made multiple undisclosed donations to the Republican Governors Association, totaling at least $1.25 million, in addition to a $1 million contribution to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its pro-Republican election-year activities. Fox News has helped GOP candidates raise money on the air; Fox News personalities are featured guests at Republican fundraisers; while other Fox News personalities continue to help generate financial support for Republican candidates now, even after the elections.”
Fox News is alone among the four major TV networks in placing no restrictions on campaign contributions. According to Open Secrets, Sean Hannity has given almost $12,000 to Republican candidates since 2005. Adam Serwer writes, “If FOX instituted an MSNBC-like ethics policy, would they actually be able to continue operating?”
,Media Matters documents a number of Fox hosts who have given political contributions to Republican candidates while also promoting those candidates.
,The post has been updated. The original version accidentally cited Fox News’ policy, rather than NBC’s policy.
,The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol writes, “MSNBC’s suspension of Keith Olbermann is ludicrous.”