punditry

What Rachel Maddow’s Defense of Keith Olbermann + MSNBC Gets Terribly Wrong

It’s not terribly surprising to see Rachel Maddow come to the defense of suspended MSNBC colleague Keith Olbermann. After all, he played a huge — some would say “key” — role in ushering her into a time slot on his cable network. So they’re friends. And, she owes him, I guess. But I also believe she truly believes it’s B.S. to see MSNBC boss Phil Griffin suspend Olbermann (whom Griffin really doesn’t personally like) over campaign donations to Democrats he hosted on his show. But here’s the deal: MSNBC suspended Olbermann not because he donated to political candidates, but because he violated NBC News policy by not getting permission ahead of time. (Whether MSNBC does not have to adhere to NBC News’ policies is another matter.) And Rachel, let’s not use the ethics policies of Fox News to argue the difference between right and wrong. That’s a losing battle. But yeah, it’s pretty silly to watch an obviously partisan pundit get canned for supporting certain candidates, when the thousands of dollars he personally sent their way is nothing compared to the tens of thousands of dollars in campaigning and exposure he gives these candidates by having them on his show … and agreeing with them. Moreover, Rachel argues that while FNC acts as a fundraising tool for Republican candidates, MSNBC is not the equivalent because it is a news, not a political organization. Except, uh, it is the equivalent when it is: MSNBC hosts regularly help candidates raise funds using is network, and to turn a blind eye to it shoots the entire argument in the foot. Should Olbermann be back on air? Yeah probably, because NBC News’ ethics policies for clearly partisan talking heads don’t make sense. But neither does Rachel’s argument about MSNBC being an island.

On the plus side, Olbermann’s indefinite suspension meant Thomas Roberts was filling in, making it a two-hour gay block: