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Keith Olbermann's wrist slapping

When Keith Olbermann retakes his seat for Tuesday's episode of "Countdown" after a suspension that lasted just two days, I half-expect him to be wearing shoulder pads.

The interruption of the liberal cable TV host's show, which was put on hold "indefinitely" by MSNBC last week after it was discovered that Olbermann made contributions to Democratic candidates, reminds me of so many football stars who get suspended for just a couple games for some pretty serious violations. (Sure, giving campaign contributions isn't exactly underage drinking or accusations of sexual assault; but in the realm of journalistic ethics, it's pretty serious.)

The punishment is supposed to hurt the player. And it does somewhat, in terms of statistics and--often minimally--docked pay. But the real loser is the team's record. Or in Olbermann's case, the cable network's revenues.

Some might argue this system hurts no one. The player is chastened for their behavior while the coach appears decisive and full of integrity. But by making light of rule violations, a wrist slap often does more harm than good.

Many will argue, and have, that punishing Olbermann really wasn't necessary. Everyone knows he is a liberal, and his competition over at Fox News gives to Republicans all the time. Upholding the rule makes a farce out of it.

Others, meanwhile, such as Olbermann's colleague Rachel Maddow, are using the incident to distinguish the network from Fox. "Let this incident lay to rest forever the facile, never-true-anyway, bull-pucky, lazy conflation of Fox News and what the rest of us do for a living," she said Friday on her show. MSNBC wins the higher ground, she seems to argue, by actually punishing its hosts for violating journalistic standards.

Except it didn't, really. Unfortunately, Olbermann's punishment falls somewhere in the middle. It's understandable that MSNBC felt it had to do something more than get Olbermann to apologize. A rule is a rule, after all. But if it really wants to send the right message to other people who might be tempted to violate it, the discipline wasn't likely to scare many off.

Issuing a punishment with consequences--say, removing him from high-profile, ostensibly objective coverage such as future elections--would have done more to send the signal to Olbermann's colleagues that MSNBC takes the rule seriously. Wrist slaps may win the bottom line in the short term, but they lose the game of creating a culture of standards and ethics in the long run.

By Jena McGregor

 |  November 8, 2010; 11:47 AM ET |  Category:  Bad leadership , Leadership advice , Pop Culture Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I think this was handled just right.

I know people use the Fox News comparitor to say suspending Olbermann was not fair. The fact is MSNBC is news and news must be held to a higher standard to be credible. Olbermann was wrong and deserved discpline.

Having said that, a short term suspension is the appropriate discipline. Losing a couple of nights pay at his salary is like a football player getting aoone game suspension. It costs a pile of money for impact, but he returns to the field quickly.

Olbermann screwed up. MSNBC imposed the proper level of discipline and maintains the integrity that Fox lacks.

Posted by: maupin1 | November 9, 2010 7:31 PM

I had a hard time taking this issue since NBC has allowed on air talent to make political donations as long as the suits get to approve the donation first. This includes Joe Scarborough and others. I personally could care less if some tv executive got his nose out of joint because Olbermann did know or did not care that he should get permission first.

Posted by: EricfromNC | November 9, 2010 6:09 PM

Its no secret that Olbermann is partisan. Even though I tend towards the view that he supports, I stopped watching both Chris Mathews and him because I don't enjoy the partisan emphasis. But many people do and his partisan presentation earns MSNBC a large amount of money. There is no shortage of cable partisans at the other end of the political spectrum and even cable networks like CNBC that do a fairly reasonable job of covering the whole spectrum of views. It seems fairly foolish to make a pretence of imposing rules limiting the political activity of someone whose whole persona is built around a partisan political point of view.

Posted by: dnjake | November 9, 2010 5:53 PM

We call Faux "news" faux news because they are really just a PROPAGANDA outlet for the right.

If Faux "news" runs a story on the $200 million a day India trip they do it over and over and over as each of their little monkeys runs with the story as if its a new and just breaking event.

THEN THEY BURY THE RETRACTION ON THE 3 AM 4 second spot between dog food and mouse food.

Do you really want to elect as President someone that is so lazy that they can't do a LITTLE fact checking before they go with a BS story? (Huckabee and Palin)? REMEMBER - THEY MAY BE USING THAT BS TO SEND YOUR CHILDREN TO DIE IN A NEEDLESS WAR!!!

Posted by: Freethotlib | November 9, 2010 4:26 PM

Astute and clear thinking commenter tifoso1 (see post dated: November 8, 2010 3:34 PM) caught me.

I hadn't noticed that Olbermann was suspended? I was to busy giving Obama's boots a hard-core licking to have noticed.

But I did notice that Olbermann has a new book out. And getting his wrists slapped cerainly helped get him lots and lots of free airtime and blog time and all the free publicity he could want on all the cable news channels.

Coincidence or I am just being paranoid.

Well, as a dedicated hard-core Obama boot-licker I would have to say I was too busy to think about Olbermann and his new book as I was too busy giving Obama's boots a good boot-licking and everything.

Posted by: mickster1 | November 9, 2010 3:48 PM

Oberman a jounalist???? Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha.....

Posted by: slainte1 | November 9, 2010 2:45 PM

Posted by: mckenna7 | November 9, 2010 1:25 AM
"BTW Calling the premiere cable news station "faux news" is at best sophomorric and at worst petty, immature and childishly ignorant of the American electorates first choice of their news coverage."

You're kidding, right? Surely you know that the Fox (News and) Opinion Channel's top-rated show still gets only about half of the lost-rated Network news broadcast and about 40% of the highest rated. First choice? More a distant 4th. And that's for their top opinion shows. How many people actually watch Fox for news? Even the most dedicated, conservative Fox watchers I know change to CNN or the networks when they want to see the news.

Posted by: milo13 | November 9, 2010 2:29 PM

This whole column is a stinking, steaming pile of excrement. Get over it people, the days of Cronkite, Murrow, and Huntley/Brinkley are gone. There are no rules now, the message is that viewership is king. The message means nothing, is O'reilly better just because he has more viewers (geriatrics are the majority BTW), give me a break!

Posted by: chuckUfarley1 | November 9, 2010 1:47 PM

What I can't believe is MSNBC caving on the issue. They have the backbone of a bendee straw. At the first sign of indignant howls they back down. Journalism standards aren't big at MSNBC because you can't be respected for impartiality when your journalists are donating to candidates during elections. You see two of those candidates were locally here. One involved my representative and as you can guess no I didn't vote for her. She definitely wasn't the best candidate for the job. You just angered half the people in this country in one instance. The fact that you caved helped me to realize it's not about having standards and policies but who does the complaining. Call me one person who won't watch your network now.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | November 9, 2010 1:38 PM

And just to put things into their proper place...

the Big Giant Head...Bill O'Reilly who loves to claim his superiority by his larger audience every night is also beaten every night by....SpongeBob Squarepants...
just something to think about

Posted by: LucasRandles | November 9, 2010 1:31 PM

Is it possible for MSNBC or any of it's personalities to exist without invoking the words "FOX News" every 5 seconds? Seriously, what do the rules at MSNBC have to do with FOX News. Whiners all.

Posted by: kieran2001 | November 9, 2010 12:58 PM

I saw Keith's "apology" to his viewers. What I did not see was him apologizing for his abysmal ratings.

Posted by: MoveOn | November 9, 2010 12:43 PM

Please don't overreach.

There was no crime - in fact, donating to candidates has been deemed a free speech right. There is no journalistic ethics issue, at least not in the cable news space- witness the Fox News contributions in this election cycle. That makes Olberman's contributions an internal MSNBC personnel issue.

Conflating and exaggerating only serves to bring out the crazies, as responses to your column attest.

Posted by: tomasidaquino | November 9, 2010 12:35 PM

I think he was "punished" because he didn't get the proper blessing. In order to contribute you have to have approval and he didn't get approval. If he had asked would it have been granted? If the answer is yes then the suspension was probably about right.

Posted by: rlj611 | November 9, 2010 12:30 PM

Let's look at all this: First, Olbermann never pretended to be a journalist. I'm a huge fan because of his digging in and commenting. I'm, frankly, surprised that he didn't give more. He once wrote a 5 figure check to an Alaska charity to make up for a defect he perceived in Sister Sarah's persona.

About so-called liberal media...get over it. It isn't. Not WaPo or any other. Balanced is the best you'll get. NYT failed totally to cover the Mall rally held by One Nation, for instance. It was bigger than Beck, but not 'worthy' somehow.

And about Faux, the fact that O'Reilly or Beck getting more viewers is just about as interesting as the rubberneckers taking the time to look at a traffic accident. Insofar as their 'research', none of them do it, don't care to issue corrections and even call for assault against those whom they disagree with. The fact that Faux is a total shill for the Teapublicans is a raw and bleeding wound on democracy.

Maybe if more of the zealots who are commenting negatively here did as much research as Olbermann, Maddow and others on MSNBC, we'd not be saddled with an economic disaster, divided government and no plan to go forward from the corporatists who control Teapublicans.

With the change in power wrought by Faux in this election, let's hope that their agenda is thwarted.

Posted by: BobfromLI | November 9, 2010 12:11 PM

after reading most of these posts, i DON'T find it odd that people CANNOT undertand what happened. let me help: IT IS NEVER a good thing for anyone on a "news and/or commentary" show to GIVE money to their favored politician (and not tell anyone about it). then to have said secretely favored politicians appear as guests on your "air" to boost them in a political race. that is so UGLY AMERICAN.

the only real difference between the left and the right in this country is the spelling!

Posted by: perryrants | November 9, 2010 11:58 AM

I sense that Fox News has been slightly embarrassed by MSNBC's disciplining of Olberman. MSNBC took the high ground on this one, and succeeded in forcing a debate on possible conflict-of-interest issues engendered by the private political behavior of cable news commentators.

Posted by: Ristudi | November 9, 2010 11:56 AM

I could understand if MSNBC had fired Keith for donating to Republicans and that would have been serious, it goes to mental stability. But, donating to democrats, pfui!, MSNBC should have made a matching contribution. McGregor should get her morals and ethics recalibrated, serious, seriously!

Posted by: MikeQ2 | November 9, 2010 11:48 AM

"indefinitely" seems to have a adifferent meaning to those at msnbc. go figure that that would happen there.

Posted by: perryrants | November 9, 2010 11:47 AM

I think it is silly for MSNBC to have folks like Olberman be bound by their political givings policy. The guy is not a newscaster, he is just another talking head pundit like Fox's O'Reilly. What I found disturbing is how MSNBC had a round table of talking head libs (Olberman, Maddow, Robinson, etc.) actually trying to act as newscasters and pundits at the same time during last weeks midterms. Now that made for some silly tv and made MSNBC look very amateurish.

Posted by: mmourges | November 9, 2010 11:38 AM

There really isn't an issue here if you break this into it's proper perspective. MSNBC and Fox have two seperate divisions operating on their broadcasts. There is a news division which reports on current events and hard news. Then there is what I would call an opinion/entertainment division which is used to generate viewership. Mr. Olbermann belongs to the latter division. If there was a sharp time line divide between the two on air it would be easy to seperate them intellectually. However, Fox being very successfull in the latter division now mixes them up. MSNBC Is trying to mix them up to generate more viewers.

Since Mr. Olbermann isn't a true news reporter there shouldn't be an issue with this. If you can mentally seperate real NEWS from what pretends to be news analysis then more light and less heat will be shined on these issues.

Posted by: kchses1 | November 9, 2010 11:18 AM

Olbemanns ratings have ranged in this discussion from 3 to 150. His actual ratings are generally around 1 mil at 8 pm and between 300K to 500k at 11pm. (Neilsen ratings)

Anderson Cooper regularly beats Olbermann in the 11pm slot. O'Reilly regularly more than triples Olbermanns ratings and the rest of the evening Fox crew would be ashamed of his (Olb)numbers.

So why the big deal? This guy is not a player, whatever bozo filled in on Friday night got slightly higher than average numbers for that slot. Ask yourself this, would I truly notice if Olbermann never appeared on TV again?

Posted by: mckenna7 | November 9, 2010 11:04 AM

OK I'll bite Jena. If its NOT alright for MSNBC's Olbermann to give the legal limit donation to a favored candidate, then obviously its NOT alright for Fox's Hannity to donate hundreds of thousands to HIS favored candidates.NO? If this is not so, why not spend your ink and creatvity into letting your readers know how you think the two cases are different-Not simply dissing Olbermann. Otherwise you sound like nothing so much as just another biased journalist with exceptional access to the Media. Bah!

Posted by: oregonbirddog | November 9, 2010 11:03 AM

Who cares about Olberman. He has issues. Nobody but the ultra liberals watch MSNBC anyway.

Posted by: delusional1 | November 9, 2010 11:01 AM

No, the punishment doesn't fit the "crime." He should have never been suspended in the first place.

Posted by: monk4hall | November 9, 2010 10:51 AM

"How come when Olbermann's mom evicted him from her basement last year, only the Daily Rash covered the story? http://www.thedailyrash.com/?p=1824 I don't get it!"

Perhaps because Olberman's mother passed away before the "incident" ocurred...meaning it was made up.

Posted by: jjj141 | November 9, 2010 10:43 AM

"HARRYTAM", really? The hypocrisy of your post would be sad if it weren't so laughable. "...there needs to be a counterbalance to Fox News". Really? The fact is that the media is already tilted so far left (WaPo, NY Times, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, HLN, the list goes on and on...) that it's comical.

All news networks "tweak" the truth to push their respective agendas but facts do not lie. Fox continually trounces the other news networks and that's a fact. Why do you suppose that is? I believe your own words may shed some light on the answer. "Just look at the recent mid-terms where people did not vote with real knowledge". Really? So based on this are we to surmise that the majority are ill informed or incapable of making intelligent decisions? And are we also to conclude that the all seeing and all knowing "HARRYTAM" along with the left (and left controlled media) are the only ones graced with the capacity for real knowledge? Or instead, is it more likely that the world is sick and tired of the pompous, entitled bile spewed from the left and the left controlled media?

Let's give the majority the chance to decide for themselves. Oh wait, they already did...

Posted by: H2oJW | November 9, 2010 10:42 AM

We no longer have News Organizations. We have political organizations that have TV channels. Weather its Fox or MSNBC. Or for that matter the WSJ or NYTimes/WashPost.

Posted by: carter21 | November 9, 2010 10:42 AM

Yawn - much ado designed to sell Keith's book

Posted by: GeneWells | November 9, 2010 10:42 AM

What about 1st amendment rights? This rule is poor and everyone - including journalists- should have the right to speak on behalf of candidates and donate to causes they believe in. In truth, isn't supporting a candidate's position in an opinion commentary worth more than a couple of thousand dollar donation? No one is objective - including NPR - why are so many pretending this is logical?

Posted by: sarno | November 9, 2010 10:29 AM

In the wake of the Bush Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, any corporation can legally donate as much money as it sees fit to any candidate, ergo FOX is in the pockets of the Republican party. As distasteful as it appears to us, that is good business for the GOP and FOX.

MSNBC takes the high road and gets laughed at in a reality check. What Keith did may not be on the uber level of high moral ethics about giving money to campaigns while being an employee of MSNBC, it is his right so to do as a citizen of the USA. You might want to go back to that First Amendment argument that has gone on for almost forever. He got in trouble because he admitted making contributions. How many others in the network have made contributions through back door groups and had their identity protected? Giving under a family member's name to a PAC for the advancement of any social agenda that happens to give to a candidate of the network employee's favor circumvents the "rule", but gets the money into that campaign just the same.

Ascending to too lofty of a perch means only one thing, a harder fall and more embarrassment when you end up with your head under your a**.

Posted by: ronjeske | November 9, 2010 10:28 AM

I enjoy watching Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow, but I know that they are NOT doing journalism on MSNBC. They are just doing colorful political commentary, and they know that. In that sense they are not very different from, say, Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. Therefore, if Keith, or Chris want to give some of their own money to a few candidates, I really don't see why they can't. Now, those who aspire to be journalists certainly need to take a far more careful stand on these issues.

Posted by: InMaryland | November 9, 2010 10:28 AM

Wow! David Shuster was suspended for two weeks for making a remark about the Clinton's pimping out Chelsea in some weird way. A remark that at least held a bit of news worthiness in it considering that Chelsea was more than willing to speak and campaign but would not do interviews.

Now Olbermann not only gives to campaigns but has one of the candidates on his program and gets two days...

I am not a fan of fox or CNN paricularly but MSNBC has clearly shown that the network is more concerned with viewrs than it is news.

Posted by: circuslion | November 9, 2010 10:23 AM

I'm sure many on here have already pointed out that MSNBC is a watered down version of the left's own FOX, only no where near as fully formed a political machine as FOX. So, Olbermann is clearly a lefty, so what if he gives a paltry sum to Dems. What's amazing is that FOX gets away with it so blatantly, and while they whine about Olbermann, they're contributing at hundreds of times his scale.

Not that I really care about Olbermann....I don't have a tv and I've only seen a very few segments from his show. But still....

Posted by: lindsaycurren | November 9, 2010 10:22 AM

MSNBC shouldn't bother to pretend they have integrity if they don't.

Olbermann and Maddow are shills, so why try to pretend otherwise?

Posted by: postfan1 | November 9, 2010 10:12 AM

What crime? Gimme a break. It is an internal rule at MSNBC that Fox DOES NOT HAVE. Fox commentators contribute all the time and endorse candidates all the time. The only rule at MSNBC that Olbermann broke was not getting permission from management. MSNBC does not say an employee can not contribute, it just requests they get permission first. Jena McGregor, did your really think this was worth writing about?

Posted by: wrw01011 | November 9, 2010 10:04 AM

Too short. He seriously undermined MSNBC's credibility when he donated to a candidate the same day he had her on his show. Pay for play, anybody? In-kind campaign contributions? He opened up a pandora's box of problems for them. He also gave up the moral highground in knocking Fox for being bought and paid for by the GOP.

Posted by: Hammerino | November 9, 2010 9:44 AM

This was a planned incident in the same way that a floundering rapper goes out and gets arrested or one of the Hilton sisters seeks out a TMZ camera crew, sloppy drunk, in an effort to reset their standing in their respective entertainment niches.

Given the fact that O'Reilly's late-night replay of his show, "The Factor" crushes KO's first airing of his show, OF COURSE CNN management will want to get the pot stirred.

KO is literally one of the worst human beings on television. For a guy who runs a segment called the worst person on Earth, he is quite the jerk himself. It's publicly known that the guy uses what ever little power he has to get women who work for him into bed, then fires them. I love how the stories all seem to have one common thread - the KO is hung like a thumbtack.

No wonder he's always so sour.

Posted by: Personal_Fowl | November 9, 2010 9:27 AM

I hate Keith Olbermann with a passion and wish him the absolute worst, but I have to defend him in this instance. He has made no secret that he is a left-wing nutjob and as far as I can tell has never pretended to be a real journalist. Likewise, MSNBC is not a real news network and really doesn't pretend to be one, either. Chastising Mr. Olbermann for giving money to Democratic candidates would be like chastising someone like James Carville for doing the same. It's only if you pretend MSNBC is a news outlet instead of the far-left liberal mouthpiece it is that you could get upset by Mr. Olbermann's conduct.

Posted by: JerryH3 | November 9, 2010 9:19 AM

The absence of shrill whining for two days was wonderful. Please do it again !!

Posted by: richard36 | November 9, 2010 9:18 AM

On what planet did the Post find Jena Mcgregor?

Posted by: Bronski | November 9, 2010 9:17 AM

Wow, this story has garnered more attention than his show does in a whole year! What a petty ratings ploy by "BS"NBC. His ratings will still be in the dumpster.

Posted by: bchallmd1 | November 9, 2010 8:59 AM

Is this wehre I vote to make Bristol Palin the winner on "Dancing with the Stars"?

Posted by: cllr | November 9, 2010 8:54 AM

Such a crock. It's all for ratings- there is no integrity.

Posted by: poppysue85 | November 9, 2010 8:42 AM

"Keith wrist slapping" !........

I'm shortsighted, and need to get other pair to read that correctly.

What I read seems true.

I phone some folks. tell me if the guy really got the spank?.....

Ha! Ha! Ha! Hazh! Hah!.....

Some kind of joyful feast going on, I gather. No way to know. How hard I tried!

Most say. Take it easy. Grifin's dead and burried. He doesn't know it yet, but the black-dressed guy is on the way.

They just need more than 72 hours to say that tha CEO died heroically while fighting the 5th column (Countdown), with his funny whig.


Posted by: benkad | November 9, 2010 8:28 AM

The guy is the biggest jerk on television. The more he appears the better, as far as I'm concerned. All he's doing is further disgracing that dying cable network. Keep that pie hole flapping Keith.

Posted by: pd2710 | November 9, 2010 8:14 AM

Judging from his ratings, Olbermann's style of glib, sarcastic, know-it-all ranting appeals to a grand total of 0.2% of the population.

Good news, I would say!

Posted by: corco02az | November 9, 2010 7:55 AM

Most, if not all, who complain that "Fox news" is all slanted are actually talking about "Fox Network" and are right. The network is slanted with all the opinion people. But Fox News is people like Chris Wallace and is quite good. Better than MSNBC news, in fact. (Or my opinion.)

Posted by: GaryEMasters | November 9, 2010 7:52 AM

I remember Mr. Olbermann scolding all of us who thought our troops could win in Iraq. He was especially angry.

He is welcome to do that. It is his show.

But I do remember it.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | November 9, 2010 7:48 AM

(Sure, giving campaign contributions isn't exactly underage drinking or accusations of sexual assault; but in the realm of journalistic ethics, it's pretty serious.)

Olberman does not appear to me to be any more of a "journalist" than Hannity or Limbaugh.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Posted by: gpsman | November 9, 2010 7:37 AM


Objectivity is an illusion, promoted by the media in order to convince the reader that their news is the "news" the whole "news" and nothing but the "news", when in reality MSNBC, FOX, THE WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES, AND HUSTLER MAGAZINE use the print media to promote their own socio-political agendas.

I prefer the unadorned news, it's a lot more honest

Posted by: samscram | November 9, 2010 7:10 AM

Don't worry, only a pitifully negligible few other listners will ever actually SAY anything about all the outrages that Oberman and Maddow broadcast, let alone actually DO anything (at all, besides go about our "business as usual."

And they provide plenty of grist to complain about "them libruls" and the "Left" media.

After all, the Republicans repealed so-called "free speech" during the W. Bush regeime, didn't they? (Check out presidential "signings" re "Freedom of Information") Yeah, yeah, say whatever you will. Just watch out for the guard dogs.

The Washington Pinkskins.

Posted by: memorybridge1 | November 9, 2010 6:57 AM

Don't worry, only a pitifully negligible few other listners will ever actually SAY anything about all the outrages that Oberman and Maddow broadcast, let alone actually DO anything (at all, besides go about our "business as usual."

And they provide plenty of grist to complain about "them libruls" and the "Left" media.

After all, the Republicans repealed so-called "free speech" during the W. Bush regeime, didn't they? (Check out presidential "signings" re "Freedom of Information") Yeah, yeah, say whatever you will. Just watch out for the guard dogs.

The Washington Pinkskins.

Posted by: memorybridge1 | November 9, 2010 6:53 AM

How come when Olbermann's mom evicted him from her basement last year, only the Daily Rash covered the story? http://www.thedailyrash.com/?p=1824 I don't get it!

Posted by: mark83064 | November 9, 2010 6:38 AM

What Jena conviniently neglects to say in her hit piece is that Comcast and GE have contributed heavily to Karl Rove and the US Chamber of Commerce, two integral arms of the Republican Party. Mind you that these coporate contribution were made without the shareholder's knowledge and approval and, therefore, amount to theft. Keith Olbermann paid for his contributions out of his pocket. For a corporatist newspaper such as WaPo, I know it takes a lot a nerve to stand with the individual v. the corporation, which, needless to say, you clearly don't have!

Posted by: fgominho | November 9, 2010 6:34 AM

If MSNBC is really serious about being neutral, they need to do something more than having this rule such as having conservatives in the prime time to counter liberal broadcasters like Obermann. Or abandone this notion of having to present both sides of an issue. MSNBC is considered by many to be a counterbalance to Fox. It has its commercial value. Stick to it and change the corporate rule for people like Obermann, Maddow, Mathew.

Posted by: oldandfoolish | November 9, 2010 6:33 AM


Scarborough DID get permission for his political donations. Keith not only didn't get permission, but now he arrogantly claims he didn't "know" about his own employer's rules. Not believable. Of course he knew. He's not a dummy.

The whole issue is ridiculous. These people are not journalists, they are opinionators. For NBC to claim that Keith is the reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow is ridiculous. And, for Rachel to claim the same thing is laughable. Note to MSNBC:Just give up the fake journalist mantle and admit what you are: the left wing version of Fox News. To claim that Ed, Matthews, Rachel, O'Donnell and Keith are unbiased and deliver objective (just the facts) "journalism" is laughable.

Posted by: Afraid4USA | November 9, 2010 6:08 AM

When MSNBC requires Joe Scarborough to jump through the same hoops (he donated without approval) then I will think that MSNBC did not have a separate agenda with Olberman.

America's corporate media "leadership", including those at the WaPo, are nothing but a bunch of scared little children who are afraid of being accused of "detracting from shareholder value."

I hope you can find jobs at PR firms as your industry dies because that's what you have become.

Posted by: gregroa | November 9, 2010 4:51 AM

I used to care about ethics and integrity in news. Now I just don't care because there needs to be a counterbalance to Fox News.

MSNBC is biased and silly but FOX is DANGEROUS and borderline EVIL (and I don't use the word evil easily).

MSNBC tweaks the truth but Fox PROMOTES OUTRAGEOUS LIES and pounds on any news that hurts Obama much like a fox pouncing on its prey e.g. the outrageous $200 million spent for his India trip and the Shirley Sherod case

MSNBC or even NBC is not a media empire growing in different countries with a libertarian agenda but FOX NEWS is a media empire stretching from Australia to Hong Kong, England, Scotland and the US. In the US alone it not only owns Fox News but also the Wall Street Journal

I worry about the direction our country is going when such a high percentage of Americans think Fox provides them with real news. It has surreptitiously occupied our living rooms, schools, airports, capitol hill, wall st. etc and fed us hatred and anger and lies. I used to wonder why the average good German didn't do more to stop the Holocaust. Surely the average person knows such killing to be wrong. Now I don't wonder any more. Just look at the recent mid-terms where people did not vote with real knowledge. The hatred from Fox is palpable and real but the average American is unaware.

Posted by: harrytam | November 9, 2010 1:47 AM

Unbelievably I have to educate the liberal masses about this situation once again.

a) Olbermann signed a contract that prohibited donations to political entities unless previously authorised. This contract was broken and Olbermann was therefore subject to disciplinary action.

b) Fox News, the leading cable news station by far, does not have such requirements on its opinion or newscast staff. Therefore it does not matter what Beck, Hannity etc do they are not breaking their contracts.

c)You can argue that Fox is in the right, thereby disagreeing with MSNBC and their ban on political donations, or that MSNBC is right thereby disagreeing with Olbermann. You can't have it both ways.

d)In the end MSNBC caved and gave in to the heavy handed bullying of Olbermanns left wing thugs. As a right of centre person I appreciate this, as Olbermann is a complete embarrassment to the Democrats with his hateful rants.

BTW Calling the premiere cable news station "faux news" is at best sophomorric and at worst petty, immature and childishly ignorant of the American electorates first choice of their news coverage.

Posted by: mckenna7 | November 9, 2010 1:25 AM

MSNBC is not PBS. The evening hours are opinionated and I welcome it. Fox TV is an active arm of the GOP and they need a honest and aggressive opposition. No one else was calling Fox TV on their quarter truths, outright lies, bigoted and manipulative BS. They are ham handed and a gutter fight with them is not pretty. Rupert Murdoch has destroyed civility with crass disregard for American Values. Their attack of ACORN was illegal, unscrupulous, bigoted and mean spirited. Their blatant promotion of the Tea Party was political propaganda in the extreme. Then there was the spreading the rumors about "Death Panels" when we all know the insurance companies are the real Death Panels. For that I will never forgive them.

Keith Olbermann is a progressive/liberal advocate whom I often disagreed with. Never the less I valued his opinion and the information he presents. Is it selective? Of course, I know that. I read extensively and fill the gaps from other sources.

I hope that MSNBC is not the wishy-washy PBS that fired Jaun Williams for expressing a slightly non-PC view widely held. (If someone in 1950 expressed the same view about a ..... on a bus, there would have been general agreement and applauding.)

However, MSNBC policy of not allowing your political commentators, as "high minded" is grossly hypocritical. GE has given to specific Congressional candidates, has taken advantaged of the Citizens United decision to spend millions on 527, et al advertising and have the chutzpah to sanction Keith Olbermann for giving under $10000 to candidates of his choice? (No better than Rupert Murdoch, et al.) This is "kettle calling the pot black".

So bring him back, change the rules and let him continue the gutter fight. I would suggest that he not have to ask permission, but only inform and remain legal. The thrust of his remarks are welcome/valued counter balance to crap from the right wing/corporate media fire hose.

"I want my country back from the corporate coupe d'etat."

Posted by: stanassc | November 8, 2010 10:45 PM

"Why doesn't the Faux News direct investment of $1.25 Million to Republicans, investments by its 2nd-largest shareholder Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia for the Ground Zero mosque, and owner Rupert Murdoch's literal in-the-bed relationship with the Chinese ever make it to Glenn Beck's chalkboard?"
'Cause, like my cat, he knows whereof his bread is buttered.
Glenn Beck may be an idiot, but he's no fool.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | November 8, 2010 6:35 PM

This issue is one that I've given a great deal of thought.
Look at the comments on this thread.
There is such a thing as "journalistic ethics" and I have found, to their credit that most newspapers have adhered to those ethics whenever they have reported straight news.
The criticism of WaPo by these propagandists as being "left-leaning" is without basis.
All newspapers have an opinion section, apart from their straight news reporting and inside that "bubble", commentators are free to express their political opinions, biases and all.
It's not fair to excoriate a newspaper with excellent investigative reporters for exposing problems in our government, by calling it "bias".
MSNBC doesn't ban contributions by its employees; it just requires they get "permission" before giving.
That doesn't make sense.
Are private employers now going to tell us we can't contribute to candidates we support unless we get their "permission" first?
I remember when Tom Brokaw, during an interview with John Kerry on his "News Hour", openly snapped at Kerry sarcastically, sneering at a point Kerry was making.
Did NBC News suspend Brokaw?
Did Brokaw pay any price for that behavior?
Brokaw later admitted he had been a bit harsh (a rank understatement).
There is a difference between conducting an opinion program, like Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann, Larry O'Donnell, Bill O'Reilly, "Face the Nation", "State of the Union", "This Week," etc.
Rachel Maddow apparently, even though she does conduct an opinion hour, still choses to adhere to the journalistic standard of not becoming involved with campaigns or contributing to them because she may interview them.
That's fine and I admire her for her stand.
I think MSNBC did what they needed to do after they humiliated their leading opinion hour anchor.
I wouldn't hold it against Keith if he didn't just drop his contract with MSNBC after this "shellacking".
However, I'll be glad to see him back.
If they want to get fussy about it, report Election Night with straight reporters only and leave the opinionators out of it.
Then MSNBC could have its cake and eat it too.
Of course, ratings would drop instantly, I have no doubt.
Not even CNN is THAT persnickity.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | November 8, 2010 6:26 PM

There are two issues here, one being whether or not Keith Olbermann is serving in a purely journalistic role and two being whether or not the punishment fit the crime.

Even if you were to believe that Keith serves as a traditional journalist, although I do not know how you come to that conclusion considering his show contains some of his opinions, you still have to ask yourself what is the correct punishment for such a crime. Indefinite suspension seemed harsh, and inconsistent with how the network deals with others in its roster. If he had gone easy on the candidates on his show, asked viewers to vote for a particular candidate, or asked viewers to contribute to a candidate’s campaign, I could see that as clearly crossing the line.

Posted by: whiteha1 | November 8, 2010 5:18 PM

There are two issues here, one being whether or not Keith Olbermann is serving in a purely journalistic role and two being whether or not the punishment fit the crime.

Even if you were to believe that Keith serves as a traditional journalist, although I do not know how you come to that conclusion considering his show contains some of his opinions, you still have to ask yourself what is the correct punishment for such a crime. Indefinite suspension seemed harsh, and inconsistent with how the network deals with others in its roster. If he had gone easy on the candidates on his show, asked viewers to vote for a particular candidate, or asked viewers to contribute to a candidate’s campaign, I could see that as clearly crossing the line.

Posted by: whiteha1 | November 8, 2010 5:17 PM

Why doesn't the Faux News direct investment of $1.25 Million to Republicans, investments by its 2nd largest shareholder Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia for the ground zero mosque, and owner Rupert Murdoch's literal in the bed relationship with the Chinese ever make it to Glenn Beck's chalkboard?

Posted by: GarrisonLiberty | November 8, 2010 4:57 PM

He was never a good sportcaster and he is just as bad now whatever he is!

Posted by: mct1 | November 8, 2010 4:56 PM

I see the the Republican slime machine is in full swing with it's paid to comment machine. I'm up for getting a group together to do nothing but make derogatory comments in the Wall Street Journal Editorials, New York Post, Washington Times, Fox web sites but then I'd have to check my brains to be able to make my comments sound Republican.

Posted by: mikestud50 | November 8, 2010 4:52 PM

Suppose Olbermann had sent a check to Congressman John Boner. Would MSNBC had him shot as a traitor?

Posted by: sameolddoc | November 8, 2010 4:48 PM

Character assignation is the domain of Joseph Goebbels and drives the anger & fear machine for the Sheeple and by the Sheeple.

Since the average Faux News viewer is 65 and is only motivated by anger and fear, you won't find any intellectual arguments against the ideas of Olbermann and MSNBC, only propaganda character assignation in the form of bovine waste product.

Posted by: GarrisonLiberty | November 8, 2010 4:42 PM

MSNBC is still around?? Who is Keith Olbermann?

Posted by: Fenwick1 | November 8, 2010 4:41 PM

I don't recall family man and religiously pious "Billo" getting his hand (or any other part of his anatomy) slapped for the much more serious charge of alleged sexual harassment of Faux News producer Andrea Mackris that was settled out of court.

Posted by: GarrisonLiberty | November 8, 2010 4:33 PM

I'm sure his 150 listeners will be thrilled

Posted by: phines1 | November 8, 2010 4:32 PM

As if everyone doesn't know that MSNBC, Matthews, Olbermann, Maddow and the rest constitute the Leftist Network. Some people watch these buffoons because they affirm and reflect their own misguided opinions and bigotry.

Just a publicity stunt for a dying network.

Posted by: magellan1 | November 8, 2010 4:31 PM

What surprises me here is the audacity of the WaPo, the very icon of an Obama cheerleading, tea party bashing and suppressing paper to point to KO's journalistic integrity. The WaPo outright says it is ok to wear your liberal slant on your sleeve, and they are proud to be counted as a liberal paper.

I think the real distinction to be made here between WaPo and Fox is this: Fox keeps the basic news coverage (eg Shep Smith) neutral, and has strong bias on the opinion piece shows. The WaPo has strong bias in all reporting, even the stuff that is supposed to be neutral. They back page issues or not cover issues that disagree wtih their slant. Fox will cover issues they don't like with as they are under continual barrage from the MSM for bias.

Posted by: Wiggan | November 8, 2010 4:26 PM

He shouldn't have been suspended in the first place. What he does with his money is his business, not MSNBC.

Posted by: mortified469 | November 8, 2010 4:17 PM

At least Keith's two dozen viewers will be happy. Shepard Smith could scratch his nuts on air for an hour and get higher ratings, although I wouldn't recommend doing that, Matthews would get a thrill up his leg.

Posted by: xcannons | November 8, 2010 4:16 PM

This post was second-rate, ill-researched, and uninformative. Was I wrong to expect a little more here?

The truth of the matter is, many people who weren't huge fans (or who hadn't even heard of) Keith Olbermann, have their ears perked to MSNBC and his show after this controversy. Controversy breeds interest, and MSNBC had 2 days to allow this to flesh itself out on the internet, and then needed to maximize the ratings/revenue spike by removing the suspension. Not setting a time limit was also a smart move.

Personally, I feel like reporters should police themselves more than be policed by a network or a news organization. They should only be required to disclose their campaign contributions and attendance at political events to their audience within any political articles. This way, people could see the effects of political bias on their article, and make their judgments of the reporter/newscaster/etc with all of the facts.

I feel like it is becoming more and more popular to treat hosts, reporters, newscasters, and the lot...as well as listeners/viewers, like they can't distinguish left from right. Let them all participate in the political realm--after all, they've got a huge personal interest in it, and they're knowledgeable. Let them be a part of the process--this country needs political discourse to be delivered and carried out on a much higher level than has been the case. Just require transparency and direct statements about attendance and money given to campaigns and rallies.

Posted by: sanityinreporting | November 8, 2010 4:07 PM

Please... please... please... Are you so bereft of inspiration for your columns - so incapable of devoting time and effort to commenting on something that demands my attention, your attention, even Keith Olbermann's attention - that you have to pad your word count with kvetching over the length of a politically-inspired suspension of a TV commentator? Had someone you liked and followed been suspended, & then reprieved thus, would you still be complaining? Or would we instead be treated to a waste of a column over what you perceived to be injustice? Why, in an an economy such as ours, does someone like you still have a job spearheading "issues"?

Posted by: jsoister | November 8, 2010 4:06 PM

I couldn't disagree more with your column.

Posted by: garrykanter | November 8, 2010 3:57 PM

America: get ready to hold your nose again - the stench of "the Worst Person in the World" is about to return after the M(ore)S(ocialism)from N(itwit)B(iased-socialist)C(lowns) network ends its brief "indefinite" ratings publicity stunt.

TAX CHEAT olbermann has put BOTH the 'Corrupt" and the "B-tard" in "Corrupt B-tards of the lamestream media".

Let's hear it for the blatant bias of the lunatic-left media!

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot | November 8, 2010 3:56 PM

The whole thing was a repuglican attempt to "take out" someone who told the truth about them, via their rich corporate contacts.

It didn't work because the same thing didn't happen to Buchanan, a smoking-gun that it's yet another political assassination by the pig party. That made his viewers raise hell.

MSNBC needs to either suspend Buchanan for 2 days or apologize to Oberman.

--faye kane, homeless idiot-savant
More of my smartmouth at http://tinyurl.com/fayescave

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | November 8, 2010 3:55 PM

Of course, not that long ago, Fox gave a million dollars or so to the Republican Governors. But that is not an excuse.

It would be nice if MSNBC would hire more objective journalists. Of course, pure objectivity is impossible, but journalists and their owners should at least try.

So it's good that someone was punished for departing from professional standards. I still stay from MSNBC and Fox and all the tv media as much as possible, and will continue to do so.

Posted by: geneven | November 8, 2010 3:53 PM

Oxygen thief !

Posted by: kevina2 | November 8, 2010 3:46 PM

Nobody cares. Olberman is insignificant. Ever look at his ratings?

Posted by: shewholives | November 8, 2010 3:45 PM

I largely agree with Olbermann and Maddow politically, but I'm still able to call a spade a spade.

I have no doubt that both Keith and Rachel are "journalists" in the technical sense. But, insofar as they are journalists, they are ADVOCACY journalists with neither the pretense nor the requirement that they be "objective" and "impartial". In fact, they are encouraged, if not required, to be partial.

That being the case, MSNBC's imposition of a penalty on Olbermann for making cash contributions to candidates, and Maddow's defense of the network's action, when every day both he and she make "in-kind" contributions (*), border on the ridiculous. It's not unlike punishing a person for entering a restaurant in the nude only because he wasn't wearing shoes.

The problem is that the network allows or requires its advocacy journalists, like Keith, to serve the dual roles of advocate and straight news presenter.

(*)See: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/business/media/08carr.html?scp=2&sq=alan%20carr&st=cse

Posted by: edgewalker | November 8, 2010 3:41 PM

Anyone who is stupid enough to watch MSNBC or Fox for NEWS deserves exactly what they get: an evening full of screaming bias with little relevance

Posted by: maurban | November 8, 2010 3:39 PM

What a joke.

I don't think Jena has ever seen Olbermann's show. He is a liberal, he is proud of it and he does not claim to be a non-interested dispassionate journalist. Have you ever seen the guy's special comment? He foams at the mouth during some of them.

MSNBC is dependent on Olbermann and Maddow. We all know how "sharp" the rest of the NBC news crew is...NOT.

Remove him from future elections on MSNBC? Are you nuts?

You want Brokaw back? Brian Williams? Those two put the B in boring.

MSNBC is liberal entertainment with commentary. You want news..read the NYT.

You want partisanship watch MSNBC or FOX.

You want journalism...read a book or a newspaper. TV news stopped being news about 30 years ago Jena..welcome to 2010.

Posted by: PostReader250 | November 8, 2010 3:36 PM

Besides a few hard-core Obama boot lickers, will anyone really notice his return?

It's too bad about Olbermann. He was a very good sportscaster with ESPN. But, when he went to MSNBC, he turned into the most arrogant, obnoxious, biased buffoon. He is a poster boy for biased journalism.

Posted by: tifoso1 | November 8, 2010 3:34 PM

I get it, it was just a game.... nothing serious like Ward Churchill getting fired and then given $1 for his freedom of speech being targeted on TV and witch hunted in academia...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | November 8, 2010 3:33 PM

Who really cares?

Does MSNBC really think anyone will watch him more now? HA!

He's a dolt.

Posted by: dskiff | November 8, 2010 3:32 PM

The cable news shows give about as much news as their viewers will tolerate. The essential is entertainment, even on MSNBC, which does have some serious guests on to comment on specalized news stories. "Ostensibly objective," McGregor writes. Ostensible gets the essence of it. The difference between Fox and MSNBC is not so much liberal v. conservative, but stupidity v. sarcasm. It is a difference dictated by the demographics of their respective viewing audiences.

Posted by: morphex | November 8, 2010 3:29 PM

If they let Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough donate to Republican candidates, then Keith has every right to do so too. It's his business. Does MSNBC tell him how to vote too?! I think not. They're being hypocrites. What Olbermann does on his own time is none of their business. They need to change their policy period. Keith probably had his lawyer call explaining how unconstitutional their move was and if others do it, then he can do it.

Posted by: cholly85241 | November 8, 2010 3:28 PM

MSNBC should have kept this issue off-line if they weren't able to stand behind it.

They look like a bunch of second guessers now, which is worse for the network than Olbermann's "dirty deed".

Posted by: bmschumacher | November 8, 2010 3:20 PM

It's not the fact that Olbermann made a donation. It's that NBC News portrays itself as being non-partisan through their corporate policy of no donations. To allow this to go unpunished would show them for the hypocrites that they are.

Fox journalists are permitted to donate as that is their policy. Others that permit contributions are Time Magazine, Forbes, Reuters. NY Times does not permit donations...wanna bet they don't police that???

Posted by: lorielles_1960 | November 8, 2010 3:19 PM

if we were in a utopic society of incredibly law abiding citizenry and trustworthy political leadership , i would agree with you ,but in today's ambience of hatred,bullying, and the fabrication of lies to actually fool voting blocks into believing you ,what Keith Olbermann did was refreshing.....he actually donated to the people he speaks positively of.....what would have been upsetting is if he would have made donations to the Sharon Angle and Kathleen O'Donnell campaigns...now that would have been unprincipled and deceitful.Welcome back Keith...i did miss the Thurber readings this past Friday.

Posted by: kiler616 | November 8, 2010 3:16 PM

Reading these comments....it's lib-on-lib crime! LMAO.

Posted by: kbarker302 | November 8, 2010 3:10 PM

I'm glad he's back but, I'm going to ignoring him. It was a stupid rule, MSNBC didn't understand its product. If the post's reporters did something like this i would be upset. But MSNBC isn't really a news network it is a way for liberals to feel better. I love Stossel on fox, but he doesn't tell the news, he explains libertarianism, and thats what I want. I have real journalist who tell me about mud slides and quantitative easing 2 and who won the 11th congressional district, BTW who did. And then there are people like Olbermann who tell me who to hate.

Posted by: champion1 | November 8, 2010 3:10 PM

I do think Olbermann made a mistake. But if this article were a serious effort to analyze the issue, it would be pointed out that the likes of Hannity and Beck have made political contributions with no penalty whatsoever and Murdoch himself has taken big money out of the Newscorp treasury to give to the Republicans. Compared to the blatant propaganda vehicle that Fox has mostly become, Olbermann's transgression is very small potatoes. It almost looks like writers like the present one are trying to deliberately downplay what Fox is.

Posted by: twm1 | November 8, 2010 3:02 PM

It is absolutely ridiculous that he was suspended anyway. A greedy corporation or individual investor can make a half-million dollar donation, like throwing a bone to a dog, to any politician it believes will further its profit-motivated actions, like throwing a bone to a dog, and a news journalist cannot? Who is the real person here?

Posted by: dotell | November 8, 2010 2:23 PM

Are you for real? Did they just find you in some finishing school or what?

You obviously haven't put much time into reading the back and forth on this and I would like to believe that you were distracted while Rachel Maddow was talking and not that your heard her and are just really clueless.

Do your homework.

Posted by: gingles | November 8, 2010 1:53 PM

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