Friday, November 05, 2010

Rachel Maddow speaks out about Olbermann suspension

By now you should have heard the MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann for making campaign contributions to three Democrats for this election cycle.

Earlier tonight, Rachel Maddow addressed the issue as only she can. I agree with her completely on her point about people who compare MSNBC and Fox.

As you may have heard today, Keith Olbermann has been temporarily suspended from his job hosting Countdown on this network, because he made three personal political donations to candidates in this last election cycle. The reason for Keith's suspension is that here at MSNBC, there is an explicit employee rule against hosts making contributions like that.
You can do it if you ask in advance and management tells you it's OK. That's what I understand happened with our morning-show host's political donations in 2006, under previous management.
But if you don't ask in advance for an exemption from the rule, you're bound by the rule. (For the record: the rule applies to us here at MSNBC and to NBC News staff. CNBC isn't under NBC News, so they're not bound by the rule.)
I understand the rule. I understand what it means to break it. I believe everyone should face the same treatment under that rule. I also personally believe that the point has been made and we should have Keith back hosting Countdown.
Here's the larger point, though, that's going mysteriously missing from the right-wing cackling and old media cluck-cluck-clucking: I know everyone likes to say, "Oh, cable news, it's all the same. Fox and MSNBC -- mirror images of each other. But if you look at the long history of Fox hosts not just giving money to candidates, but actively endorsing campaigns and raising millions of dollars for politicians and political parties -- whether it's Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck or Mike Huckabee -- and you'll see that we can lay that old false equivalency to rest forever. There are multiple people being paid by Fox News to essentially run for office as Republican candidates. If you count not just their hosts but their contributors, you're looking at a significant portion of the entire Republican lineup of potential contenders for 2012.
They can do that because there's no rule against that at Fox. Their network is run as a political operation. Ours isn't. Yeah, Keith's a liberal, and so am I. But we're not a political operation -- Fox is. We're a news operation. The rules around here are part of how you know that.
Back before it was politically safe to do it, Keith Olbermann attracted the ire of the right-wing and a lot of others besides when he brought to light and raged against what he saw as the errors and sins of the previous presidential administration. Keith was also the one who brought to light Fox News's water-carrying for the Bush Administration; he was the one whose point-of-view journalism exposed and put exclamation points on the problems of disguising a political operation as a news one, the model embraced by the guys across Sixth Avenue, at Fox.
Now, weirdly, it is Keith who is once again illustrating the difference between what he does at MSNBC -- what we do here -- and what goes on across the street.
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