News of Keith Olbermann’s indefinite suspension has been met with a show of support for the MSNBC anchor from both the worlds of news and politics. Not only have MSNBC colleagues Rachel Maddow and substitute Thomas Roberts voiced their support, but also Sen. Bernie Sanders and former CNN anchors Rick Sanchez and Aaron Brown have chimed in on Olbermann behalf.
Not only did Olbermann’s friend and colleague Rachel Maddow go in to detail about why Olbermann was suspended and call for his suspension to end quickly, but MSNBC gave an indication that Olbermann’s suspension is not intended to be a firing, by having substitute host Thomas Roberts mention it on Olbermann’s own show Countdown.
Here is the video of Roberts:
Roberts said, “Last night, MSNBC management became aware of three political contributions that Keith made to three different candidates last week. The contributions are not permitted by NBC News without prior approval. In light of those facts, Keith has been suspended indefinitely. And we know all of you are looking forward to Keith’s return, and so are we.” Earlier in the show, Roberts only half jokingly made reference to knowing what it was like to be caught in the middle of a power struggle.
Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez voiced his support for Olbermann, via Twitter of course, “Got to work w/ Keith when I was at MSNBC. He’s a solid journalist. Hope this passes.” Another former CNN anchor, the banished Aaron Brown said of the rule, “NBC is entitled to make policy, even if it doesn’t make much sense in this instance. It just shows how crazy things are. At least Fox doesn’t pretend it is fair and balanced. Oh wait, it does.”
The harshest criticism of the Olbermann suspension has come from US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who said, “It is outrageous that General Electric/MSNBC would suspend Keith Olbermann for exercising his constitutional rights to contribute to a candidate of his choice. This is a real threat to political discourse in America and will have a chilling impact on every commentator for MSNBC.
Sen. Sanders pointed out that Fox News and talk radio are 90% conservative and added, “Is Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz next? Is this simply a ‘personality conflict’ within MSNBC or is one of America’s major corporations cracking down on a viewpoint they may not like? Whatever the answer may be, Keith Olbermann should be reinstated immediately and allowed to present his point of view.”
Now that CNN has gone with the train wreck known as Spitzer/Parker, there is no objective cable news programming left in the 8 PM hour. The closest thing left to an objective show is probably Anderson Cooper at 10 PM on CNN, so from this perspective Aaron Brown is correct. In today’s partisan media environment, NBC’s rule exists to lend nothing more than a pretense of objectivity to the network. I don’t think that MSNBC should go the Fox News route, but it is well past time to let individual hosts contribute to candidates as long as they disclose their contributions on the air.
While his suspension is justified if Olbermann did not get prior permission for his donations as is required, the question now becomes does the punishment fit the crime? The general consensus is that a violation this small doesn’t justify an indefinite suspension, but there seems to be more to this. I have a hunch that this is part of a power struggle between Olbermann and his bosses. KO has had run ins with management before, so this minor incident could be nothing more than a behind the scenes conflict becoming very public.
What’s clear is that Keith Olbermann has a lot of support, and MSNBC would be foolish to prolong this publicity nightmare. The longer that they keep Olbermann off the air, the more support will grow for him and the viewership for Countdown will drop. This is not going to blow over. Olbermann’s viewers aren’t going to forget and come back to the show if he isn’t on. MSNBC would be wise to put Olbermann back on the air, let him address the issue on the show, and move on, because the longer this thing lingers the uglier it gets for MSNBC.