Popular liberal TV news host Keith Olbermann apologized to his fans — but not NBC News — on Monday for the "unnecessary drama" surrounding his two-day suspension for making political donations.
The "Countdown" host complained that he was being punished for mistakenly violating an inconsistently applied rule that he had known nothing about. He said he learned he was being suspended from the media after being assured that form of discipline wouldn't be taken.
Olbermann was suspended without pay Friday by his bosses at the cable TV station MSNBC, a suspension they announced two days later would be lifted. He's due to return to work Tuesday.
The left-leaning cable network's most popular personality acknowledged donating $2,400 apiece to the campaigns of Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. NBC News prohibits its employees from making political donations unless an exception is granted in advance by the network news president. Olbermann's bosses said they didn't know about the donations until being told about them by a reporter.
"Certainly this mistake merited a form of public acknowledgement and/or internal warning," Olbermann said in a statement, "and an on-air discussion about the merits of limitations on such campaign contributions by all employees of news organizations."
Instead, he was suspended "without a hearing," he said.
MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said the network wouldn't respond to Olbermann's statements.
Olbermann said he did not attempt to keep any of the campaign donations secret and offered to "explain all this, on air and off, in the fashion MSNBC desired."
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee took on Olbermann's suspension as a cause, starting an online petition drive for his reinstatement that gathered more than 300,000 signatures.
Olbermann thanked viewers for their "extraordinary and ground-rattling support."
"Your efforts have been integral to the remedying of these recent events, and the results should remind us of the power of individuals spontaneously acting together to correct injustices great or small," he said.
Of course, some took a different view of the suspension.
"MSNBC sure knows how to discipline its out-of-control anchors," said Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center. "Suspended for one whole weekend. I wonder if Olbermann had to write lines on the chalkboard, too."
Olbermann has a long history of clashes with bosses, both at MSNBC and at at the cable television sports station ESPN in the 1990s. His role at MSNBC is an important one, and the network has molded much of its lineup philosophically by following his lead.