Keith Olbermann returned to his chair as host of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC Tuesday night — ending his short suspension without pay for violating the rules of his employer.
His suspension — such as it was — kept him off the air for Friday and Monday nights. When you make about $7 million a year, a couple of days without pay won’t send you to the poorhouse.
Olbermann contributed to three political candidates in the midterm elections — something that other overtly partisan “news” personalities on cable channels do all the time but something that real journalists don’t do as a matter of ethics.
But Olbermann isn’t a journalist — not by a long shot. He’s a talking head on a psuedo “news” hour that is mostly opinion sprinkled with juvenile puppet shows and segments like “worst persons in the world” — a segment that we are now told will be scrapped.
What should be scrapped is Olbermann himself along with all the other partisan hacks who dispense the sham journalism that is anything but news.
That won’t happen, of course, because Olbermann is MSNBC’s “star,” the host of the show with the highest ratings for the channel, even though Olbermann’s ratings lag way behind Bill O’Reilly’s right-wing rants on Fox and don’t come close to the ratings of regular news shows on NBC, CBS and ABC.
MSNBC casts itself as the liberal alternative to Fox, the propaganda arm of the GOP and the rabid right wing. Actually, the libs who genuflect at Olbermann’s feet call their politics “progressive,” which would be really funny if they weren’t so somber and serious about such a ludicrous label.
Calling any political philosophy “progressive” makes about as much sense as calling Corrupt New York Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel “ethical.”
Labels aside, Olbermann’s short suspension highlights the sad state of journalism as practiced by the many partisan media outlets that dispense propaganda as “news” and substitute bias for truth.
NBC’s policy does not prevent an on-air personality like Olbermann from contributing to a political candidate. It only requires that the talking head get permission before making the contribution.
But Olbermann stopped believing that rules apply to him long ago. His monumental ego triggers many backroom shouting matches at the MSNBC studios and his relationship with MSNBC President Phil Griffin.
MSNBC insiders say Olbermann is an out-of-control egomaniac who makes increasingly onerous demands from the network, berates colleagues without mercy and demands “star treatment” from all who deal with him.
Former co-workers describe him as a bully who considers himself above all others at the network.
So it’s no surprise he didn’t see the need to obtain approval before writing out checks to candidates.
With permission or not, Olbermann and his colleagues in phony news channels like MSNBC and Fox enjoy a privilege that average, hard-working journalists don’t.
Every newspaper I have worked for over the last 45 years had a ironclad rule against any kind of political activity by those who report the news. Even the weekly that I write for now in retirement prohibits political contributions, signing a petition for a political cause or putting a candidate sign in our front yard.
As a journalist, I never registered as a member of any political party, contributed to a candidate or participated in political activity. When I took a sabbatical from journalism for a decade I worked for Republican candidates and served as chief of staff to a GOP congressman but — even then — didn’t register as a Republican or Democrat.
But those were the old days and the old ways. In the world of “new journalism,” opinions are welcome — and often encouraged — and attempts to remain non-partisan or objective are frowned upon as “passe” or “old fashioned.”
That was then. This is now.
Yet given the current state of politics and governance in this nation, maybe “then” should replace “now.”
Then everything old could be new again.