Msnbc TV host Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely on Friday for making campaign donations to three Democratic congressional candidates, apparently in violation of NBC News ethics policy.
The announcement came in a one-sentence statement from msnbc TV President Phil Griffin: “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.”
The donations were first reported by the Politico website earlier in the day.
Olbermann acknowledged the donations in a statement to Politico, saying he gave the maximum legal donation of $2,400 to Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who waged an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate against Tea Party standard-bearer Rand Paul.
Like most news organizations, NBC News, parent of msnbc TV, prohibits political contributions by its journalists without prior approval of the president. (Msnbc.com, a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft, also has a policy against its journalists contributing to political campaigns.)
"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,” the NBC News policy reads. “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."
Politico noted that the donations to Grijalva and Giffords were made on Oct. 28, the same day that Grijalva appeared on Olbermann’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” show. Grijalva won re-election on Tuesday, while Giffords on Friday was clinging to a narrow lead over Republican Jesse Kelly in a race that the Associated Press has not yet called.
In his statement to Politico, Olbermann said he did not encourage his viewers or other staff members to donate to the candidates.
“I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns, nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level,” he was quoted as saying.
On "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" Friday night, substitute host Thomas Roberts recounted NBC's reasons for Olbermann's suspension.