When I first heard of Keith Olbermann's indefinite suspension without pay for violating NBC's ethics policy, I didn't quite know what to think. Olbermann hosts Countdown, one of the rare breeds of liberal political programs, and his suspension comes right after the Republican election success and perhaps right before an important merger which has political undertones.
On the other hand, perhaps Olbermann did violate NBC's ethics policy and deserved to be punished for that violation. I was unable to find that ethics policy on the net. The initial problem:
It is hard to know if that quote about "controversial" positions comes from the ethics policy or not. If it does, it's certainly a weird world if giving money to regular Democratic candidates is viewed as controversial.
Olbermann, who does not hide his liberal views, has acknowledged donations of $2,400 each to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords during this election cycle.
NBC's ethics policy generally bars political activity, including contributions, without the approval of the president of NBC News, Steve Capus, according to a 2007 story on MSNBC.com.
"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest," it says. "Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee."
But all that didn't seem enough for a post. Until this:
IF the cause of canning Mr. Hayes is in his past donations, how do those violate NBC's ethics policy?
Chris Hayes, tapped Friday by MSNBC to fill in for the indefinitely suspended Keith Olbermann as host of the prime-time political show "Countdown," gave money to two Democratic campaigns in recent years. Now, following that disclosure, MSNBC says Mr. Hayes won't get the gig after all.
This does begin to smell like a purge of liberals and progressives altogether.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political aisle:
Different rules, you see.
Interestingly, Olbermann is not the only prominent TV host to contribute to a politician this cycle. Sean Hannity of Fox gave $5,000 to Rep. Michele Bachmann's PAC over the summer, as Salon reported at the time. In response to that reveleation, Fox told a Minnesota newspaper:
Fox News programming head Bill Shine said there's no company policy against talk show personalities giving to candidates, but said Hannity would disclose the donation when Bachmann appears.
"It always good to remember that he's not a journalist, he's a conservative TV host," Shine said. "If he wants to donate to a candidate, he certainly can."
Now, as it turns out, Hannity had Bachmann on after the donation and did not disclose it.