“Hey there — anything crazy happen where you work today?” said Rachel Maddow at the start of her MSNBC show on Friday night. She was referring, of course, to the suspension of her prime-time neighbor, Keith Olbermann, for making donations to three Democratic congressional candidates.
According to NBC News policy cited by MSNBC president Phil Griffin, its employees cannot do that unless they have prior permission. Griffin put out the usual boilerplate: that “these activities jeopardize his [...] standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Come on: Does anyone think Keith Olbermann is an impartial journalist? His show Countdown is intended as a presentation of the day’s news as recalibrated from a liberal point of view; his “special comments” are editorials. Over on Fox News in the same time period, Bill O’Reilly is doing the same thing, but from a conservative point of view. Does the idea that a liberal or a conservative opinion-giver is also a money-giver to campaigns he or she endorses really sully your sense of journalistic integrity? We’re not talking about Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric taking to the air with ringing hosannas for Michele Bachmann or Barney Frank, and writing them big checks. It’s Keith Olbermann. It’s MSNBC.
And as Rachel Maddow pointed out in the final segment of her show this night, Fox News show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee have donated money and appeared at fund-raisers for politicians whose politics they praise on their shows:
(Please note: Maddow is also taking an implicit shot at Jon Stewart and his “Rally To Restore Sanity” for equating MSNBC and Fox News. So did Bill Maher on Real Time with Bill Maher. I agree with both of them, and was wondering when this was going to start.)
The notion that the Olbermann suspension is ridiculous has united both liberals and conservatives. Maddow said on Friday night that she, Olbermann, and some others on MSNBC are liberals and identify themselves as such; she called for her network to restore Olbermann to his show immediately. On The Weekly Standard website, conservative William Kristol says, “MSNBC’s suspension of Keith Olbermann is ludicrous. First, he donated money to candidates he liked. He didn’t take money, or favors, in a way that influenced his reporting. Second, he’s not a reporter. It’s an opinion show. If Olbermann wants to put his money where his mouth is, more power to him.”
Bill O’Reilly was a guest on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night. Maher didn’t ask O’Reilly about the Olbermann suspension; I’ll have to assume it’s because the interview was taped earlier in the day, perhaps before the suspension was announced. But O’Reilly did make one comment to Maher that, by extension, supports his foe Olbermann: “There’s a difference between the opinion people and the hard-news people,” he told Maher. He’s correct.
Can’t wait until Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert get hold of all this on Monday.
For more: Keith Olbermann suspended by MSNBC