MSNBC to Keith Olbermann: Pontificate, But Don't Donate

November 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

Popular MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann was suspended over this past weekend after a report by Politico revealed Olbermann’s donations to several Democratic candidates days before last week’s Nov. 2nd election.

Olbermann, a former ESPN talking head turned MSNBC talking head, had donated $2,400 each to the campaigns of Jack Conway (Kentucky Senate), Raul Grijalva (Arizona House), and Gabrielle Giffords (Arizona House).

The donations, which were set at the maximum legal amount allowed by individual donors according to the Federal Election Commission , were in direct violation of MSNBC’s ethics guidelines, which Politico scraped from a 2007 article, which states that all possible conflicts of interest, including political contributions, should be reported to the NBC News President.

The New York Times reported that the suspension, which began on Friday, ends on Tuesday, allowing the commentator to resume his nightly show, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” which is the highest-rated program on the 24 hour news network.

I make it a point to avoid as many talking heads as possible, which often translates into skipping over MSNBC, Fox, and sometimes CNN. Though, admittedly, I do make an exception for Mr. Bill O’Reilly, whose Youtube hits remain a particular penchant of mine.

While corporations were given unbridled freedom to donate towards political advertising as a result of the landmark Citizens United decision, and as evident by theĀ  recent Chamber of Commerce piece in the Times, it’s interesting to note that individual contributions can still make a ruckus.

Perhaps part of it is that Olbermann make the donation to Grijalva the same day the politician happened to appear on his show. Or the fact that the issue sheds a hypocritical spotlight on Olbermann, who has been a staunch critic of Fox News’ political donations to the G.O.P.

Nevertheless, in a market that has become over-saturated with polarizing commentary, pseudo-experts, and a never-ending stream of Facebook updates and Twitters from viewers like you, it’s hard to believe that there’s any credibility left to destroy.

The ‘punishment’ also doesn’t really seem to fit the crime. A suspension that starts on Friday and ends before Tuesday night for a weeknight show seems like the media equivalent of sending a bad teen to bed after dinner with no dessert. [Bad teens never care for dessert anyhow.]

And when I consider the nature of his job, like many others on both MSNBC and Fox, I can’t help but see a thin pane of glass where there should be a brick wall.

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