November 5th, 2010
01:45 PM ET
12 years ago

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.

-  CNN's Alexander Mooney and David DeSola contributed to this report

Filed under: 2010 • Keith Olbermann
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. miami2010

    WOW. This is the most hypocrite that I see on television. It's constantly make a lot of lies about the Republicans and the everybody that has opinions on the center-right, that is why MSNBC has more letters than viewers. They constantly talk about FOX, but at least FOX has some people the represent the left or center left, but they not has one that represent the right or center-right. HYPOCRITE............................

    November 5, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. oscar

    Does anyone really think they will hold Olberperson responsible for his actions? Others at MSNBC probably did the same. It's ok for Liberals to violate rules because their cause is for having people dependent on the government so they can keep their votes. He is a primary example of what is being referred to as the "ELITES" who know what is best for everyone. They would be afraid to fire him for fear of the reaction on the left. This is worse than the supposed crime Juan Williams committed.

    November 5, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    He has been obvious, in his one-sided programs for Democrats, on the show. While I recognize that Fox has done the same for the GOP, that doesn't make either one right, in their behaviors.

    There should NOT be politically biased programming, masquerading as news.

    November 5, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Ancient Texan

    No surprise!...Every "Host" on MSNBC is guilty of dishonest, unethical, and biased "reporting". Contributions are a foregone conclusion.

    November 5, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. TALKing point

    most talking media talk the talk and dont do the talk, they are hypocrite. I dont just watch or read the news much. they are not trusted.

    November 5, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. unretired05

    If he was a financial, health care or manufacturing corporation he could have donated anonymously.

    November 5, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. miami2010

    Yes, FOX is the channel of the right, and MSNBC, New York Times, NBC, Washington Post, Times, Newsweek, CBS, ABC etc all are the channel of the Democrats what is the point here. What a bunch of hypocrites. CNN I have to said that is moving more to the center, and I think that is why they are more relevant.

    November 5, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. GL

    Yea, go after the little man CNN. CNN/Fox News!

    November 5, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  9. conoclast

    '...Fox News is the Republican news channel.' Oh really?
    I'd put it more like: Fox News is the republican propaganda and disinformation arm; let's at least call a spade a spade!

    November 5, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. ja

    what violation, did nbc want to buy them instead, with recent supreme court ruling

    November 5, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. Dave

    As an employee of General Electric, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to see MSNBC get sold off to Comcast. I am however shocked that NBC even had an ethics policy.

    November 5, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. euphy

    Is there a concern that someone might come to believe that Olbermann or MSNBC is biased? Heaven forbid.

    November 5, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. Tony 140

    Oh Keith, Keith Keith. I'm sure that if Glen Beck did this, you would have run it for a year. Just like a true Progressive – they want to dictate and judge me how I live my life but how they live their's is not subject to the same rules.

    November 5, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. Jacob

    but Karl Rove can fund the entire Republican campaign with secret money!? as if we have campaign ethics in America!

    November 5, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. Joe

    Yeah, Keith, Fox News is the Republican news channel. And what exactly is YOUR channel? Could you and Maddow possibly be any more left wing?

    Ah, it doesn't matter - MSNBC's ratings are in the toilet, anyway.

    November 5, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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