Earlier today, MSNBC declared that it would be suspending progressive host Keith Olbermann because he violated NBC’s ethics rules by donating to three Democratic candidates for Congress. As many bloggers have noted, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has donated to Republican candidates for Congress while promoting the same candidate on air, but has never been disciplined. Moreover, Gawker notes that MSNBC has been exempt from the formal NBC ethics rules for years. It is still a mystery why MSNBC selectively applied NBC’s ethics rules to Olbermann. However, it important to realize that MSNBC has undergone a fundamental change in leadership in the last two months.
“…an onshore version of unregulated offshore drilling.” This is the kind of reporting we need. Don’t let them shut Keith up!
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But according to one NBC News insider, it’s common knowledge within the organization that MSNBC’s increasingly left-wing programming and personalities aren’t required to abide by NBC News’ exacting rules—if they were, it would be a much less bombastic and politically charged network. So while Olbermann’s donations may have run counter to the NBC News brand and Griffin’s wishes, there doesn’t appear to be a chapter-and-verse policy applying to MSNBC employees barring them.
“The standards department has told us that MSNBC doesn’t answer to NBC News standards,” the insider said. “They don’t have coverage over MSNBC. They used to, back before MSNBC went political, but at some point it became too hard and MSNBC was taken out of their portfolio. As far as I know, there are no ethical standards at MSNBC. And if NBC says MSNBC is supposed to be living up to the NBC News standards, that’s a preposterous lie.”
We’ve asked Olbermann and an MSNBC spokesperson whether any rules specific to MSNBC were cited in the decision to suspend him. We’re not exactly fans of Olbermann’s fat-headed sanctimony, but if you’re going to suspend a guy for breaking the rules, they ought to apply to him. Especially since the rule in question is designed to promote a notion of journalistic disinterestedness that Olbermann’s show openly shreds on a daily basis.