Rachel Maddow rose to the defense of her suspended MSNBC “colleague and friend” Keith Olbermann on her show Friday night. MSNBC President Phil Griffin relieved Olbermann of his hosting duties indefinitely following a report on Politico that revealed Olbermann’s campaign contributions to three Democrats in violation of the network’s ethics policies.
Before directly addressing the controversy over Olbermann’s donations, Maddow described a variety of political activity at MSNBC’s rival Fox News.
Maddow detailed Sean Hannity’s donations to Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and failed New York Congressional candidate John Gomez. She also discussed Hannity’s participation in National Republican Campaign Committee fundraisers. Maddow also played clips of Hannity and Glenn Beck promoting Republican candidates on their respective shows. Maddow closed by outlining the various Republican politicians who do double duty as Fox News contributors.
After her Fox takedown, Maddow talked about Olbermann’s suspension:
NBC’s rules on political donations apply to staffers at MSNBC and NBC News, but not CNBC, which isn’t under the NBC News umbrella.
Though Maddow said she understands the network’s policy on donations, but she also said “the point has been made” and called for MSNBC to let Olbermann have his show back.
“I understand this rule, I understand what it means to break this rule, I believe everybody should face the same treatment under this rule. I also personally believe that the point has been made and we should have Keith back hosting ‘Countdown,’ Maddow said.
Maddow wrapped up her remarks by saying that she hoped the Olbermann incident would “lay to rest forever” the notion that MSNBC and Fox are “mirror images” of each other.”
“Hosts on Fox raise money on the air for Republican candidates, they endorse them explicitly, they use their Fox News profile to headline fundraisers … They can do that because there’s no rule against that at Fox. They run as a political operation, we’re not. Yes, Keith’s a Liberal and so am I, and there are other people on this network whose political views are shared openly with you, our beloved viewers, but we are not a political operation, Fox is. We are a news operation and the rules around here are part of how you know that,” Maddow said.
Maddow’s criticism of Fox isn’t unfounded and she’s right that MSNBC, the “Lean Forward” network, is transparent with its biases, but her stirring defense of Olbermann didn’t adequately address all aspects of the controversy.
Olbermann didn’t get prior permission to make the donations from his MSNBC bosses, but he also didn’t disclose the contributions to his viewers. Raul Grijalva, one of the candidates who received $2,400 from Olbermann, appeared as a guest on “Countdown” the very same night he got the donation from Olbermann. Olbermann only came clean about the donations after the Politico article. According to Politico’s Mike Allen, Olbermann was suspended for refusing to apologize for the incident on-air.
As Maddow pointed out, Hannity also didn’t disclose his support for Republican candidates. Still, going with what is essentially the “they’re messed up, so we can be messed up too” defense hardy indicated that the network has learned from it’s mistakes.
Thomas Roberts, who filled in for Olbermann on “Countdown” Friday night, suggested that the suspension would be brief on his Twitter page.
“Just to be clear. I look forward to Keith’s return. And I was honored to work on his show while they sort it out. End of story,” Roberts wrote.