MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely — without pay — after the network learned that the journalist made contributions the the political campaigns of three Democratic candidates, NBC President Phil Griffin announced on Friday.
“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,” Griffin said in a statement.
Olbermann made contributions to two Arizona members of Congress and Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway, incurring in “a potential violation of NBC ethics policies,” according to Politico.com. NBC’s policy states that “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.”
Olbermann confirmed but opted to defended the donations in a statement issued this afternoon:
“One week ago, on the night of Thursday October 28 2010, after a discussion with a friend about the state of politics in Arizona, I donated $2,400 each to the reelection campaigns of Democratic Representatives Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. I also donated the same amount to the campaign of Democratic Senatorial candidate Jack Conway in Kentucky,” he argued.
“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.”
The news industry is already weighing in on the liberal Olbermann’s departure. After all, his Countdown with Keith Olbermann (which airs weeknights at 8 PM ET) is MSNBC’s most popular program. Media Matters, a liberal media monitoring group, noted that two hosts, Neil Cavuto and Sean Hannity, of MSNBC’s conservative rival had given money to Republican politicians in the past. Michael C. Moynihan, a writer for Reason Magazine, wondered why MSNBC has a “one-size-fits-all policy” about contributions.
“Isn’t it unfair to hold Olbermann, who is one of the most partisan people on television (if not of Earth), to the same standards as, say, Brian Williams?” Moynihan wrote. “Countdown exists to promote Democratic candidates and liberal policies, which is just fine by me. So why shouldn’t Olbermann, as a private citizen, be allowed to donate money to those candidates he plumps for on television?”
Chris Hayes will fill in for Olbermann on Friday’s Countdown.