NBC Suspends Olbermann for Political Donations

MSNBC has suspended prime-time host Keith Olbermann indefinitely without pay for contributing to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates this election season.

Keith Olbermann
Getty Images
Keith Olbermann

Olbermann acknowledged to NBC that he donated $2,400 apiece to the campaigns of Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grivalva and Gabrielle Giffords.

NBC News prohibits its employees from working on, or donating to, political campaigns unless a special exception is granted by the news division president—effectively a ban. Olbermann's bosses did not find out about the donations until after they were made. The website Politico first reported the donations.

"I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night," Phil Griffin, MSNBC's chief executive, said Friday. "Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."

Olbermann was not immediately available for comment.

His "Countdown" show, which airs at 8 p.m. ET, is MSNBC's most popular program. His on-the-air transformation from the host of a straight news program to a liberal commentator led the network itself to go in the same direction, filling its prime-time lineup with left-leaning hosts and doing better in the ratings than anytime since its 1996 launch.

Olbermann was a co-anchor of MSNBC's election coverage this week. The network's performance drew some criticism, particularly with Chris Matthews' contentious interviews with Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn.

Chris Hayes will fill in for Olbermann on Friday's program, the network said.

The developments with Olbermann come on the heels of revelations that Fox News Channel, a conservative network which hosts various cable news shows in direct competition with Olbermann, made political contributions to political groups.

Fox News parent company News Corp. attracted controversy in August after it donated about $1 million to the Republican Governors Association and another $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.'s largest shareholder, said that the company made the contributions because Republicans support a pro-business agenda, and argued that the donations were in the best interests of shareholders and the country.

Along with MSNBC, CNBC is a unit of NBC Universal, a General Electric company.