Keith Olbermann returns to MSNBC on Tuesday: network president

By Stephen C. Webster
Sunday, November 7, 2010 23:31 EDT
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The fracas over Keith Olbermann’s suspension is coming to an end.

Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, announced Sunday night via email that the network’s lead liberal anchor, suspended after the disclosure of several political donations, will return to airwaves on Tuesday.

“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,” Griffin wrote. “We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night.”

Since Olbermann’s suspension on Friday, just days after the mid-term elections, conspiracies had surfaced that the impending Comcast takeover of NBC-Universal from current owner General Electric had something to do with the decision. The anchor has been a vocal opponent of the takeover, but Comcast denied the allegations.

MSNBC requires that employees seek approval by management before making political donations. Olbermann said he was unaware of the rule and had given the maximum legal amount to three Democrats, two of whom appeared on his show.

Olbermann’s suspension comes after a season of controversy over donations from news organizations and journalists to political campaigns. Fox News parent News Corp. took criticism from many on the left for its $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, and another million-dollar donation to the US Chamber of Commerce.

Similarly, MSNBC parent company General Electric hired over 550 professional lobbyists in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, spending over $17.8 million to influence policy. It had for many years favored Republicans in congressional giving, but seems to have taken a shine to Democrats since 2008.

By contrast, a study of political donations found that no fewer than 30 Fox News personalities “endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations” in the latest election cycle.

Olbermann’s suspension has provoked anger among his fan base and MSNBC viewers in general. As of last count, a petition calling for his reinstatement had more than 250,000 signatures. A Facebook page urging the same thing had 6,800 fans as of Sunday afternoon.

Many critics of the network’s move saw it as a chance to differentiate the liberal-leaning MSNBC from Fox News, which employs virtually all of the leading Republican candidates for president in 2012 and often uses its programming to promote GOP talking points.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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