NEW YORK (Reuters) - MSNBC suspended liberal television host Keith Olbermann indefinitely on Friday for giving money to three Democratic politicians, violating NBC News’ policy against such donations without prior approval.
Olbermann makes no pretense of being impartial but apparently was subject to ethics standards that apply to NBC News journalists.
“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,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement.
In a statement to the website Politico, Olbermann acknowledged making contributions of $2,400 each to Jack Conway, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, and to two members of the House of Representatives from Arizona, Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords.
Olbermann is clearly a liberal partisan on his show “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” in which he often rebuts comments made by conservative media figures such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News — often by attempting to imitate their voices while reading back their own words.
He has helped make MSNBC something of a liberal alternative to Fox News, which is decidedly conservative, and MSNBC has featured Olbermann in ads promoting the cable network.
Olbermann had criticized Fox News’ parent company, News Corp, for donating $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.
NBC News policy says that employees taking part in political activity such as campaign donations “may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist,” according to a 2007 story on MSNBC.com.
An MSNBC spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Olbermann said he made the donations on October 28 — just days before the November 2 election in which Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives and narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate.
“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,” Olbermann said in his statement to Politico.
In Tuesday’s elections, Conway lost the Senate race to Rand Paul, a Republican backed by the conservative Tea Party movement. Grijalva and Giffords were leading very close congressional races.
MSNBC and NBC News are part of NBC Universal.
Comcast Corp is in the process of buying a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co, which would give it control of the NBC TV network. (Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Eric Beech)