MSNBC sent mixed ethical messages with its quick return of suspended host Keith Olbermann. On Friday, it announced the left-liberal partisan firebrand’s indefinite suspension “for making campaign donations to three Democratic congressional candidates, apparently in violation of NBC News ethics policy.”
But only two days later, the network announced that he’ll return to "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" Tuesday.
On Friday, MSNBC President Phil Griffin declared: "I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."
That message appeared to be that journalistic ethics matter at MSNBC.
But Sunday's message from Griffin, that two days off air was "an appropriate punishment for [Olbermann's] violation of our policy," appears to be that ethics matter at MSNBC — but only a little.
Olbermann is paid $7.5 million a year, according to Newsweek magazine's Nov. 8 cover story about America's most powerful 50 "highest-paid pundits and politicos," which ranked Olbermann No. 9. If this is what MSNBC pays, then two days of docked pay at around $30,000 per day, then defender-of-the-poor Olbermann is losing approximately $60,000.
Griffin owes the American people a definitive statement of how much pay Olbermann has lost. Or did the longtime sportscaster merely give up two vacation or sick days and two draft choices?
MSNBC had been under a bit of criticism because its most partisan Democrat hosts, including Olbermann, were MSNBC's election night news anchors.
By slapping Olbermann's wrist following the election, MSNBC covers its ethical backside.
He violated ethics rules by giving the $2,400 legal limit to each of three Democratic candidates, including Arizona Congressman and Progressive Caucus member Raul Grijalva. But this was far from Olbermann's greatest sin.
Olbermann, with MSNBC as his accomplice and unindicted co-conspirator, hosts an hour-long weeknight show almost devoid of balance and fairness.
"Countdown" is an unrelenting attack on Republicans, conservatives, and rival Fox News Channel, which typically has at least five viewers for every one tuning in to Olbermann.
Nearly every hour of "Countdown" is a de facto unpaid ad for the Democratic Party, an uncounted, unlimited campaign contribution to left-wing candidates and partisans.
If calculated using MSNBC's advertising rates, liberal Democrats have received literally tens of millions of dollars worth of free promotion and propaganda from Olbermann and his comrades.
No wonder MSNBC is widely known as Marxist-Socialist NBC.
These huge MSNBC contributions to one political party are neither restricted nor counted because MSNBC is said to be practicing "journalism."
How odd that liberals such as Olbermann, who assert their own right to use a national television network to propagandize one-sidedly on behalf of Democrats, were also supporters of defeated Democratic Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold's law to prohibit the rest of us from doing independent TV ads for 30 days before a federal election.
Olbermann apparently believes he should control a broadcast megaphone, but political ad broadcasting by conservatives should be restricted or banned altogether.
Olbermann's one virtue, I used to think, is that he genuinely believes in the ignorant, hate-filled class warfare babble he spouts.
But Olbermann's suspension seems suspiciously like a cheap publicity stunt.
Olbermann has much to promote — not only his show but also his new book, "Pitchforks and Torches: The Worst of the Worst, From Beck, Bill and Bush to Palin and other Posturing Republicans."
Have Olbermann and MSNBC tried to con us?
With the election over, Olbermann apparently intended to get suspended, play the martyr, and wallow in millions of dollars worth of free publicity as civil libertarians rallied to his cause.
The loony left, including Michael Moore, rallied, but Olbermann already owned them.
Most other Americans have ignored the whole kerfuffle, or have been disgusted by Olbermann’s pretending to interview Grijalva objectively on MSNBC on the same night he secretly gave the lefty Latino a $2,400 campaign contribution.
Olbermann's martyrdom gambit failed and could not be milked for higher show ratings or book sales.
MSNBC now markets itself as the liberal counterpart of Fox News Channel, a potentially lucrative niche. (But unlike MSNBC, Fox every day includes an array of liberal pundits for fairness and balance.)
MSNBC therefore could not for more than a day or two suspend its most popular lefty star. Neither could it take the left's heat over Olbermann's suspension.
Nor does MSNBC have the genuine ethics and journalistic honesty to bring balance, diversity, and fairness to its programs.
MSNBC's greatest fault is not in its star, but in itself.
Lowell Ponte's new book, co-authored with Craig R. Smith, is “Crashing the Dollar: How to Survive a Global Currency Collapse,” available at crashingthedollar.com.
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