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Olbermann suspended for contributions

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  November 5, 2010 01:22 PM

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MSNBC has suspended anchor Keith Olbermann without pay for an indefinite period. Why? Last month, Olbermann made contributions of $2,400 apiece to the campaigns of three Democratic politicians -- failed Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. He donated to the Arizona representatives the same day that Grijalva appeared on his "Countdown" show, Oct. 28. Giffords appeared on Olbermann’s "Countdown" in May, as did Conway.

Under Federal Elections Commission rules, $2,400 is the most an individual donor can give to a candidate in a general election campaign.

NBC has a policy against employees contributing to political campaigns -- something many news outlets have in order to maintain journalistic independence. According to msnbc.com, the NBC policy states, "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. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions."

In a statement, MSNBC president, Phil Griffin said, "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." In a statement to Politico, which first reported the donations, Olbermann said, "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."

Chris Hayes will fill in for Olbermann tonight, according to the network.

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