MSNBC Suspends Olbermann (compared to Fox News)

Here is the type of news that gets a lot of attention because the media loves to report on the media. I don’t generally care about such things to any great extent, but I thought this might be an example of a difference between liberals and conservatives. I’ll share my commentary below the video.

Of course, MSNBC has a policy and they have the right to suspend Keith Olbermann. It’s just like how NPR had an employee contract which was why they fired Juan Williams. It’s not surprising. Also, I’m sure there was more going on than just this. I doubt Olbermann was suspended or Williams fired just for one incident.

MSNBC is within their rights to suspend Olbermann, but even so it doesn’t necessarily mean they should do so or that another organization would do so in the same type of situation. For example, I doubt Fox News would ever do the same thing. If Fox News management found out that Beck or O’Reilly were making contributions to Republicans, I doubt there would be any suspensions. This reminds me of how the Obama administration criticized the professional left, but as far as I know Bush never criticized the professional right.

I’m not sure if this says anything about liberals in general or just mainstream liberals or mainstream liberal organizations. In both the cases of Olbermann and Williams, an employee didn’t toe the line… but the infraction in both cases was rather minor. Rightwingers have often criticized liberals as demanding politically correct conformity. I usually don’t give much credence to this criticism because conservatives are even more conformist in their own way, but there is something that makes liberal comformity different. Liberals don’t demand conformity in terms of a group mentality per se. Conservatives are much more concerned or at least more strict than liberals about conformity to in-group norms (which psychological research confirms), but liberals seem more bothered by social rules that apply to all rather than merely the particular in-group.

Olbermann’s giving money to Democrats seems unfair since he plays the role of a journalist, although I’d argue he is a pundit like Bill O’Reilly. Liberals seem to care a lot about journalist ethics. However, conservatives, like Fox News management, don’t seem to care as much about whether their news reporting is actually fair and balanced. What matters at Fox News is the claim and not the reality of fair and balanced.

Here is the difference.

Most news media is moderate and centrist in terms of serving mainstream interests, but Fox News is the mainstream media news outlet that is most conservative and MSNBC is the mainstream media news outlet that is most liberal. Even so, between Fox News and MSNBC, a further distinction can be made besides mere direction of bias. Fox News donates a lot of money to Republicans, but MSNBC supposedly donates equally to both Republicans and Democrats. Isn’t that interesting? If MSNBC is the furthest left of mainstream media, why are they more fair and balanced in their donations than the far right Fox News? So, MSNBC had a policy about not being overtly partisan such as with donations and so Olbermann was seen as tarnishing their reputation. Fox News wouldn’t be bothered by one of their pundits donating to Republicans since donating to Republicans is the policy of Fox News.

I noticed one other video that caught my attention.

One thing that distinguishes Fox News from all other news outlets is that their pundits actively promote political movements and political candidates. Fox News along with the Koch brothers took over the Tea Party and made it what it now is. MSNBC looks centrist in comparison. MSNBC management doesn’t want to be seen as just a liberal network, but Fox News is more than happy to work for the GOP (or, as one particular conservative suspected, to have the GOP in their pocket).

I don’t know exactly what all of this means, but it does seem like an important difference.

– – –

Update: I was discussing this topic on YouTube. Another commenter pointed out some new info:

Huffington Post reports: “MSNBC has suspended star anchor Keith Olbermann following the news that he had donated to three Democratic candidates this election cycle.”

NBC policy does not prohibit employees from donating to political candidates — but MSNBC president Phil Griffin is miffed that Keith didn’t get “prior approval’ first. Meanwhile, Republicans Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan also gave political contributions — but are not suspended. We’ve had enough insanity this week — we don’t need more because Phil Griffin’s feelings are hurt.

That changes the context entirely. From the initial reporting, I was made to believe NBC does have such a policy, but it now appears they don’t. So, the suspension of Olbermann was a personal decision of the MSNBC president and not a defense of an official standard of employment. This makes the whole incident even more strange. I was suspecting there was more going on behind the scenes.

A commenter on Huffington Post summarized my own reaction:

What the hell is happening to America?

First we declare corporations “persons” and political donations “free speech”.
Then coorporations declare that people working for them need coorporate permision to make political donations even when there has been no conflict of interest.

Ridiculous and disgraceful.

To make this more interesting, Comcast bought NBC. Why this is interesting is that supposedly Comcast’s CEO (and his wife) are major Republican donors. It just gets more and more interesting. When you find a scandal, just follow the money.

Here is an e-mail I just received from Bold Progressives:

BREAKING: Keith Olbermann just released the below “Statement To The Viewers Of Countdown”

It’s great — read it! Then join 60,000 others in signing the national congrats card to Keith!

Statement To The Viewers Of Countdown

I want to sincerely thank you for the honor of your 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.

[Sign the card to Keith!]

…I also wish to apologize to you viewers for having precipitated such anxiety and unnecessary drama. You should know that I mistakenly violated an inconsistently applied rule – which I previously knew nothing about — that pertains to the process by which such political contributions are approved by NBC.

Certainly this mistake merited a form of public acknowledgment and/or internal warning, and an on-air discussion about the merits of limitations on such campaign contributions by all employees of news organizations.

Instead, after my representative was assured that no suspension was contemplated, I was suspended without a hearing, and learned of that suspension through the media.

[Sign the card to Keith!]

You should also know that I did not attempt to keep any of these political contributions secret; I knew they would be known to you and the rest of the public. I did not make them through a relative, friend, corporation, PAC, or any other intermediary, and I did not blame them on some kind of convenient ‘mistake’ by their recipients.

When a website contacted NBC about one of the donations, I immediately volunteered that there were in fact three of them; and contrary to much of the subsequent reporting, I immediately volunteered to explain all this, on-air and off, in the fashionMSNBC desired.

I genuinely look forward to rejoining you on Countdown on Tuesday, to begin the repayment of your latest display of support and loyalty – support and loyalty that is truly mutual.

Do you admire this man? Tell him! Join 60,000 others in signing the national congrats card to Keith, which we’ll deliver to him. Click here.

(Or, donate $3 to help us keep fighting for bold progressive change.)

Thanks for being part of this successful campaign and for being a bold progressive.

— Stephanie Taylor and Adam Green, co-founders, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC)

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