Olbermann suspended for Dem contributions
(CNN) Keith Olbermann, MSNBC’s primetime firebrand host, has been suspended indefinitely for violating the ethics policies of his employer earlier this year when he donated to three Democrats seeking federal office, MSNBC announced 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,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement.
First reported by Politico and confirmed by Federal Election Commission filings, the primetime television host gave $2,400 – the maximum individual amount allowed – to each of the campaigns of Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway, and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. (View PDF’s of FEC filings for Conway, Grijalva, and Giffords)
Conway lost his bid to Republican Rand Paul while Grijalva eked out a win over Tea Party-backed candidate Ruth McClung for a fifth term. Grijalva found himself in an increasingly competitive race after he announced his support of a boycott of Arizona businesses in response to the state’s controversial new immigration law and often appeared on Olbermann’s show where he found a sympathetic audience. CNN, meanwhile, has yet to declare a winner in Giffords’ race, but the Democrat currently holds about a 3,000-vote lead with all precincts reporting.
The contributions may have violated an NBC policy that requires employers of the news organization to obtain permission ahead of any political donations or activities that could be deemed as a conflict of interest. CNN institutes a similar policy.
In a statement to Politico before the suspension was announced, Olbermann defended the contributions:
“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 re-election campaigns of Democratic Representatives Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords,” he said in the statement. “I also donated the same amount to the campaign of Democratic Senatorial candidate Jack Conway in Kentucky.”
Olbermann, as well as MSNBC executives, was a vocal critic of the $1 million donation by Fox News’ parent News Corp. to the Republican Governor’s Association earlier this year, saying at the time, “We now have another million reasons Fox News is the Republican news channel.”
In a subsequent show, Olbermann also pressed House Majority Whip James Clyburn if there was a “legislative response” to a networks that “starts to shill for partisan causes.”
A News Corp. spokesman defended the donation when it was first reported in August.
“News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy,” the spokesman said.