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. Dennis

    Olbermann, like Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant.

    November 5, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Robert

    Time to apply the same rules across the him. He is a true representation of what is wrong with NBC and other liberal networks. They do talk about of both sides of their mouths!

    November 5, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. Julia- Idaho Native American

    Uh how much did Timer Warner donate to political candidates, are they a member of the chamber of commerce? how about guys like Rush Limbaugh, and Candy Crowley, did she contribute to any political candidate, did you investigage every single one or your reporter? CNN in the pocket of the republicans.

    November 5, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  4. Keith

    Give me a break, this is news? Fox News openly supports every right wing nut and not only donates thousands of doolars but gives them free aire time and lets them spew their posion on the air nightly.

    November 5, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. Joe - Providence

    I can’t imagine that this is news – NBC and Olbermann are two distinct entities, it is true that he works for MSNBC but he is also a citizen of the United States of America and should be allowed to contribute to candidates. It might be a policy of NBC to require permission(?) of its news personalities before they do and it’s up to NBC on how they want to deal with him but it’s he cannot be judged by us. First of all he is not there to report news, he is there to comment and open dialog – anyone who watches his show knows his leanings (for better or worst). Fox itself gave a million dollars to the republicans and half their staff was touring the country stumping for candidates – let’s get real. NOT A STORY – I am sure CNN staff cares enough about the country to support candidates who they feel will do better for it.

    November 5, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Olbermann is the epitome of democrat hypocrisy. He constantly rants and raves against Fox News and O'Reilly as "shills for the republican party", yet does his own shilling for the democrat party!

    If MSNBC had an ounce of credibility (which, thanks to their biggest supporter–George Soros–they don't), they would have fired Olbermann for this obvious blatant violation of their ethics policy.

    Perhaps now that the republicans have wrested control of the House, they'll look into Olbermann's request for a "legislative response" to MSNBC's shilling for partisan causes.

    November 5, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. cf

    The article doesn't say how or why what he did was against the rules. Seems to me, he should be able to donate to whichever political campaigns he wants with his own money in his private life, just like anyone else. He wasn't donating on behalf of his show or the network. Unlike Fox News, which exists only to promote, endorse and finance the Republican party.

    November 5, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. OlbermannSucks

    What a surprise, do as I say, not as I do right Keith?

    November 5, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. vic nashville tn

    What is wrong with that ? He defends openly democrats he donated his own money

    FOX is republican media they donate 2 millions we know that so what move on

    November 5, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. Danigirl

    If MSNBC or NBC has not commented – why in the world would you put the speculation out there. Please, CNN, don't report partial facts. So Olbermann donated to a political campaign; until you know for sure he violated NBC policy, don't speculate. Bad, bad, bad journalism – I thought CNN was above the fold; apparently not.

    November 5, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. lowdollar

    This is one of the most partisan commentators on the air and he wants to cry foul at Fox News. Quit whining.

    November 5, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. T'SAH from Virginia

    The ONLY thing Keith Olberman did WRONG was not "GET PERMISSION" before he donated!!! I don't think he would have been DENIED and I do BELIEVE that EVERYONE has a right to make a donation as long as they stay within the GUIDELINES of the amount – and Keith did that!!!

    This incident SHOULD NOT even be compared to what FOX NEWS did – $1 Million dollars IS NOT $2400 and $2400 represents ONE individual and not a WHOLE company!! Let’s MOVE ON!!

    This is T'sah – OUT of campaign MODE and N2 MOVING AMERICA FORWARD with President Obama!!!

    November 5, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. Back on course

    Keith Olbermann is a pompous liberal who was a stuttering fool during election coverage. The only thing he and Rachel Maddow could do was to put on their false smiles, laugh, and continue to insult O'Donnell. They didn't want to look at the rest of the country where liberals got their asses handed to them. The only thing that he and Rachel Maddow do is dig up crap to smear people's reputation. Turns out they only have to go as far as their own news desk. The American people spoke up and sent their message loud and clear to liberals: we won't put up with liberal rhetoric, radical ideologies, increased government intrusion, and increased deficits and unemployment. Since MSNBC is the liberal media machine for the current administration, I'll guarantee that nothing will happen to Mr Olbermann. MSNBC would rather hold others accountable but not their own liberals. And regarding the election results, MSNBC: Suck it up!

    November 5, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. akcoyote

    Do as we say, not as we do – Democrat moto

    November 5, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. Jackalope

    Olbermann, who makes no secret of his partisanship, does not claim to be "fair and balanced", as FOX News [sic] does. He readily acknowledges that he is a commentator and not a newscaster. His donations were made as a private citizen, in accordance with the laws of the FEC. The biggest difference between NBC and FOX is that NBC has some sort of conflict of interest policy, while FOX does not.

    November 5, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. Vanilla Gorilla

    Olbermann should have stayed at ESPN

    November 5, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. david

    So..Olbermann is in trouble for actually putting his money where his mouth is? Everyone knows Olbermann and Maddow are very liberal, Hannity and Reilly are very conservative, and CNN is just an ignored middle child.

    November 5, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  18. John B. From Mass

    correct me if i'm wrong here, but he is a citizen is he not? Unless he donated from an nbc account i don't see how this violates any nbc rules. they clearly lean left in their reporting anyway.. if fox news can donate millions to the RGA and COC, then why in the world is $2,400 being called out???? A bit odd if you ask me. the right would love to see Keith go down and do you know why?! Because he doesn't let them get away with a damn thing.. I and millions of others love it! For too long they've been able to say what they want, when they want, with NO accountability whatsoever. There should be more people like he and Chris Matthews on television keeping sanity alive!!

    November 5, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. Katie

    While he should have followed the proper procedures of asking NBC's permission first, this is by no means the same as News Corp. donating a million to the Republican cause. This is Keith Olbermann as an INDIVIDUAL donating the maximum that he could AS AN INDIVIDUAL to campaigns of his choosing. Drawing the false parallel of an individual to a corporation is bogus reporting. CNN used to be so much better than this.

    November 5, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Frozone

    I don't get it rightwingers. Either nobody watches Keith Olbermann and MSNBC or he's the most important news man in America. Pick an argument and stick with it conservative loons.

    November 5, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  21. Kevin Cantu

    Mr. Olbermann love watching you from time to time but dude.....its like the pot calling the kettle black when you critized Fox News for doing what you have did. Just saying....

    November 5, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  22. jim

    I'm a democrat but Olbermann is one of the reasons I won't even watch MSNBC. I hope they fire him and maybe I'll tune in.

    November 5, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  23. m.w

    no big deal... as ain individual he should be able to donation to any campaign he wants... conversly, Fox(FixedNews)News did donate $1m to a campaign as a CORPORATE DONATION , not as a person donating UNDER & WITHIN the $2400 limit for an individual........
    msnbc did not make the donation a "private person" make a donation, end of story....
    much ado about nothing....

    November 5, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. Danigirl

    Oh – I forgot to mention the fact that individual max donation of $2,400 is not even remotely close to the 1,000,000 Fox gave to the Republicans, so why put THAT out there??

    November 5, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. Monster Zero

    This guy exemplifies the typical progressive liberals idea of ethics rules, they are for everyone else but themselves...he should join Juan Williams in the unemployment line. I wonder if FOX News could make room for him somewhere in their organization, mail room clerk maybe?

    November 5, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
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