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. terry the used to be democrat

    does anyone still watch this Soros puppet anymore? hasn't he been demoted to MediaMatters or yet? I mean seriously why would anyone listen to a Hungarian billionaire's puppet? How does he have anything to do with americans?

    November 5, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. November 2, 2010 - The Day Progressive Socialism was STOPPED! Rollback to continue in 2012!!

    Is this some kind of joke???!!!! NBC has an ethics policy??!!!! I doubt they have EVER enforced it given this clown is still on the air.

    November 5, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  3. rdepontb

    And $2,400 pays napkins? bus fuel? What an evil character!! Oh my!!! Keith!!! No--say it can't possibly that you sent hidden millions to those who support MSNBC's positions!!!!

    November 5, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  4. A Kickin` Donkey

    Please tell me we are not back to the Bush administration Modus Operandi where just because you don`t like what someone has done, you try to get them canned. Olberman will not be the next Valerie Plame.

    No laws were broken, Olberman was total transparent about the donations. There is nothing to see here.

    November 5, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  5. Nancy

    He should be fired...........................

    November 5, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. Tacamo

    Hypocrite! Let's see if NBC fires him; highly unlikely.

    November 5, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. Oy Vey Az

    So his NBC halo has slipped a bit?

    Like the way the FOX analysts' halos have slipped so far south they've exploded into flames and turned to dust?

    November 5, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. Robert Stinnett

    So what? His money, he can do with it what he chooses.

    November 5, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. blake

    No lefitst media bias? Busted!

    November 5, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  10. ChumBucket

    And of course, no action will be taken, because the rules only apply to the "little people" right Kieth?

    November 5, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. Paul

    Because nobody at Fox has ever donated money t a GOP candidate?

    November 5, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. Four and The Door

    They have a policy against wasting your own money?!?!

    November 5, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  13. Yolanda

    Why does GE allow such vitriolic, divisive noise? Olberman is as guilty as Fox of partisan reporting. Perhaps he helps GE secure some of the billions of dollars of government contracts that it "wins" every year. Throw the bum out.

    November 5, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  14. America Rejected Tea-Party Angle, O'Donnell, McMahon, Fiorina, Whitman...and Harry is the Boxing Champion

    So what's the beef here?!

    Fox News Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Glen Beck, Bill O'reilly, Sean Hannity are all card carrying members of the GOP and they are publicly donating to the republican party...and even holding campaign rallies for the GOP-Tea Party!

    The US Supreme Court have already ruled on the side of Big Business, Wall Streets and "news"! corporations....that they can donate and fund political parties and campaigns....even the US Chamber of Commerce s taking money from foreign corporations and corporate entities to support the GOP & Republican candidates!!

    So what's the beef?!.....CHINA is standing ready to BUY the USA...either by funding our campaigns or our govt!!!!!

    US of CHINA! Go figure!!!!

    November 5, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. JMP

    But it's OK for EVERYBODY on or associated with Fox News and Rupert Murdoch to blatantly give money to, supply jobs for, routinely support, actively push, and pander to the Republican Party on a daily basis? That's rich.

    November 5, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  16. Tom

    Is Olbermann the parent company running MSNBC now? Is he even the Owner or CEO?

    Nice non-story CNN.

    November 5, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. carlos

    of course, it was cnn which first reported it...stupidity in order to gain favor fromthe crminalrepubliCONServatives....shame on you cnn.

    Why not investigate the dealings of those on the right who hide behind the SCOTUS,not all members, shameful decision????..cnn do your journalistic work not gossip a la palin, the one with the jilted hyena s voice.

    MSNBC should not respond to cnn s request for comment.

    November 5, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. 3rd Tyrant

    Of course. Olbermann has never exhibited anything but the most rudimentary understanding of anything. Why would we assume differently about his understanding of an ethics policy, it's clarity and forthrightness notwithstanding?

    November 5, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  19. JB

    How is this a headline story? Anybody that might care already knows that MSNBC is a humorous joke a news organization. For all the flak that Fox News takes, much of it deserved, MSNBC is far more blatant in it's favoritism and complete lack of reporting on anything they don't "like" that actually happens.

    November 5, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. conoclast

    Never mind the mega-millions pumped by BigBiz into right-wing candidates' coffers, we now have here a full-blown,
    smoking-gun scandal involving Kieth Olberman and NBC! Call out the 'guard, ready the nukes; this treasonous Enemy-of-Liberty has been caught red-handed giving money to leftists!

    November 5, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  21. The Real Tom Paine

    I guess that only major corporations and FOX can donate to candidates. The rest of us are not deemed loyal or rich enough to do so. We have entered the era of IC: Ideologically Correctness, where you can be hauled in front of a committee in Congress and deprived of your freedom if you don't meet the litmus test of the wacko right. I don't always agree with Olbermann, but for anyone to object to his donations after FOX providing a paid platform for Palin, Kasich, Huckabee, and a man caught with a call girl (Dick Morris) to spew their worthless opinions is beyond belief. But, in a world where only the rich matter and the middle class is endangered due to 3 decades of deregulation, we should not be surprised.

    The USA: the best democracy foreign money can buy.

    November 5, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  22. johnrj08

    News Corp gave $1 million and nothing happened to it. Olbermann gave $2400 and he's in trouble. What's wrong with this picture?

    November 5, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. Rsprings

    What a hoot! Olbermann rails about Fox being a shill for thr Repubs. Having watched his program during (commercial beaks on Fox) he is about as left as they get and he attacks attacks attacks all the time. he is getting to be somewhat of a joke. In fact, the crowd at MSNBC, Him, maddow, schultz and matthews are very biased and show it. Even the "pure news" has a bias. That is why i don't watch regularly.

    November 5, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. Joshua Ludd

    HUGE difference between an individual who works for a network, even as on-air talent (who does an OPINION show, thank you) donating to three specific campaigns and a "news" network donating to a political party. If Olbermann violated NBC policy it is only because NBC actually HAS such a policy... unlike Fox.

    November 5, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. S. In California

    There was a time I really liked Keith. Lately, I don't. Oh well, we will see how this plays out.

    November 5, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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