Keith Olbermann will be allowed to resume his nightly program on MSNBC on Tuesday, the channel’s president said Sunday night, after he was suspended for donating money to three Democratic candidates.
The policy at MSNBC’s parent, NBC News, says journalists cannot make political contributions without permission from the head of the news division. “After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night’s program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy,” the MSNBC president, Phil Griffin, said in a statement. “We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night.”
Mr. Olbermann has declined interview requests since Friday, and he did not immediately confirm that he would resume his program, “Countdown,” as of Tuesday. But on Sunday afternoon, he posted to Twitter a thank-you to fans for “support that feels like a global hug.”
MSNBC chief Phil Griffin
Here's the question: did Olbermann's punishment fit the "crime"? And remember, Olbermann's "crime" wasn't donating to political candidates. It was failing to ask permission before making the donation.
After all, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has donated more money to political candidates than Olbermann, he's headlined fundraisers, and he even campaigned for George W. Bush in 2004 while hosting a program on the network.
Given the case of Scarborough, it's clear that Olbermann would have been allowed to make the donations. So the issue here isn't the donations: it's that Olbermann didn't ask first. The fact that Phil Griffin thought Olbermann's slip-up was something that rose to the level of a suspension (and initially an indefinite one) is rather breathtaking.
Griffin blew this way out of proportion, ultimately making both himself and the network look arbitrary and foolish. Worse, Griffin showed absolutely no respect to Olbermann's audience. Suspending Olbermann for such a ticky-tack HR dispute wasn't just a punishment for Keith O. -- it was a punishment of Countdown viewers. And as any decent network executive will tell you, the last thing you should ever want to do is punish your audience.
So it's good to know that Keith O. will be back on Tuesday. But he never should have been gone in the first place. The punishment didn't fit the crime and the fact that Phil Griffin thinks it did shows you that he doesn't get the audience for which he is supposedly attempting to build a network.
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