Olbermann Suspended For Campaign Donations

MSNBC has suspended Keith Olbermann indefinitely without pay for violating the network's policy and standards. Olbermann made personal donations to three Democratic candidates this election cycle. This comes on the heels of news that Sean Hannity made personal donations to Michele Bachman's PAC and to a Republican congressional candidate.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The cable channel MSNBC today suspended its top-rated host, Keith Olbermann. The move came after news that he had given money to three Democratic candidates this fall.

NPR's David Folkenflik has the story.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Keith Olbermann has helped to propel MSNBC to its best ratings and highest profits in its history. As he found voice as a critic of President George W. Bush's military involvement in Iraq, the success of his program became the cornerstone of MSNBC's strategy to go liberal in primetime.

Olbermann's contributions, first reported today by Politico, were not part of the plan. Olbermann gave money to two Arizona Democrats running for Congress and to Jack Conway, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee from Kentucky for U.S. Senate.

NBC News has a policy prohibiting staffers from political activities and from contributing to candidates or causes without express prior approval.

MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement today that he first learned of the contributions last night, and he suspended Olbermann indefinitely, without pay.

But Olbermann is not the only big cable personality to make contributions this year. Conservative FOX News host Sean Hannity gave $4,800 to a Long Island Republican, John Gomez, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives. And Hannity also gave $5,000 to the political action committee of Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Hannity's wife chipped in another $5,000 to Bachmann's PAC. FOX News would not comment.

This summer, executives made Hannity cancel his plans to participate in a fundraiser for Tea Party activists in Cincinnati. But the opinionated Hannity technically falls under FOX News' programming division, not news. And previous remarks by FOX executives suggest they have no policy against political contributions by talk show hosts. Hannity was not publicly rebuked for his gifts.

Olbermann's show will air tonight with a substitute host, no word on when or whether he'll return.

David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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