Keith Olbermann: Undead at MSNBC

So Olbermann's indefinite suspension was a long weekend. What a surprise. Photo: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 8 2010 - So the indefinite suspension was a long weekend. What a surprise.

“It wasn’t about political contributions, it was about breaking the rules.”

Some who commented on my last column (Keith Olbermann is partisan? Say it ain’t so!) expressed that sentiment as did Rachel Maddow (host of MSNBC). In other words, it was okay that Olbermann donated money to political campaigns, he just should have informed his bosses, as NBC policy requires.

Accepting that as true, the rule is idiotic and hypocritical.

Not only are Olbermann’s and Maddow’s shows openly partisan, their hosting the midterm elections was likewise a blatantly partisan affair. It was the geekiest members of a college Young Democrats club getting together for a night of snark and anti-conservative jokes as they watched the election returns come in.

Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow/MSNBC Photo/AP

Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow/MSNBC Photo/AP

The NBC bosses didn’t bat an eyelash. Any rule that makes Olbermann’s campaign donations punishable after that embarrassment is pure hypocrisy.

Why should he ask them for permission to give ideologues of one side money when he gives them 40 minutes of airtime every night?

As I suggested in my last column, there are two obvious reasons for the suspension. One is that it was designed to show that MSNBC is a real news organization, unlike Fox. That rule doesn’t do anything to make the news at MSNBC any more real.

If news coverage can be political, as election night coverage was, then MSNBC is not and will never be a real news station.

Whether Fox is a real news station is entirely irrelevant. If MSNBC wants to be a real news station, it has to become one not in comparison to Fox, but in spite of Fox. Ms Maddow and Mr. Olbermann, you shouldn’t be comparing your network to Fox, you should be comparing it to the ideal of a news network. 

Watch your performance on the night of November 2nd. You failed.

Then there is that second reason for Olbermann’s dismissal: to garner publicity to improve Olbermann’s ratings. The pure cynicism of that one is beneath comment.

On a final note, let me remind readers that this column isn’t a news column; it’s op-ed.

Unlike Maddow and Olbermann and the bosses at NBC, I know the difference.


James Picht teaches economics at the Louisiana Scholars’ College in Natchitoches, La. From the age of 6, he always knew what he wanted to be. Economist wasn’t it. But after accidentally falling in to it, he found that he liked it. Now he also likes raising his two children, being a husband to Lisa and taking pictures of trees in the middle of the night.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Jim Picht

James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics and Russian at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, La. After earning his doctorate in economics, he spent several years working in Moscow and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union for the U.S. government, the Asian Development Bank, and as a private contractor. He returned to Ukraine recently to teach principles of constitutional law and criminal procedure at several Ukrainian law schools for a USAID legal development project. He has been writing at the Communities since 2009.

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