MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was suspended for refusing to apologize on air for donating to Democratic candidates, according to a report from Politico.
Mike Allen cites “network sources” who told him that Olbermann would have been allowed to continue hosting MSNBC’s Countdown had he agreed to apologize on the air for donations to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates.
“Olbermann told his bosses he didn’t know he was barred from making campaign contributions, although he is resisting saying that publicly,” Allen reports.
He notes that “Olbermann may not hold as many cards as he thinks. He makes $7 million a year and MSNBC’s prime time is not as dependent on him as it was before the addition of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, who make considerably less.”
WILL OLBERMANN BE BACK?
There is confusion as to whether Olbermann’s time as the lead-in host for MSNBC’s prime-time schedule is over. MSNBC announced Friday it’s suspending Olbermann “indefinitely,” leading many to conclude that he had been fired.
But in a comment on her program Friday night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow referred to the suspension as “temporary.”
“You may have heard today that my colleague and friend Keith Olbermann was temporarily suspended from his job hosting Countdown on this network because he made three personal political donations to candidates in this last election cycle,” Maddow said.
If Maddow is correct, then it may be the case that the indefinite suspension is meant to put pressure on Olbermann to apologize for the donations.
Chris Arlens at MediaBistro notes that MSNBC has a history of temporarily suspending its on-air personalities.
Olbermann’s colleague David Shuster, once “Countdown’s” primary fill-in, was suspended in April for taping a pilot at CNN. A few weeks after that, Donny Deutsch was suspended after a segment on a show he was guest-hosting seemed to criticize Olbermann.
Olbermann, who signed a four-year, $30 million contract extension in Nov. 2008, has left MSNBC once before.
In the late 1990′s, Olbermann had a program on MSNBC called “The Big Show.” In 1998, he left the network after protesting the incessant coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He ended up joining , of all places, Fox Sports. Olbermann was wooed back to MSNBC during the run-up to the Iraq War when MSNBC had a show called “Countdown: Iraq” hosted by Lester Holt. That show morphed into “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”
But Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite points out that Shuster was suspended despite apologizing on air.
As for whether a public apology would solved all of Olbermann’s problems at the network? History suggests otherwise. Back in 2008 David Shuster apologized on air for his “pimped out” remarks and still faced a two week suspension. So perhaps the likelier scenario is that Olbermann was offered a reduced suspension for an on air apology and turned it down.
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.