The problem with the Keith Olbermann story is not that he broke NBC’s rules regarding contributions to political campaigns, nor that he failed to disclose them on the air, nor that he was only doing what many Fox News Channel hosts have done, nor that there’s anything close to an equivalency between the two networks.
Olbermann’s mistake was being a hypocrite.
If you go on the air and regularly lambaste someone for doing something, as Olbermann has done often regarding Sean Hannity and others at Fox (including the network’s owner, Rupert Murdoch), then you can’t do the same thing yourself. Olbermann should have known that those donations would become public, so why risk exposing himself?
He has certainly done enough stories about politicians who scream about “family values” only to get caught with a hooker, and preachers who rail against homosexuality until they’re caught with a male prostitute, and talk show hosts who demand that drug abusers be severely punished until they’re caught using their maid to buy Oxycontin in a brown bag in a Denny’s parking lot.
The irony is that in many of those cases, after the hypocrites admitted their “indiscretions” and did a public mea culpa, they returned to their jobs and careers with barely a slap on the wrist. If that’s what happens with Olbermann, it will be interesting to see if he changes his attitude on the air.
Regardless, two things should happen, and fast: 1) Olbermann must face up to the hypocrisy, perhaps in a Special Comment; and 2) MSNBC must drop the ludicrous pretense that its primetime hosts are objective news anchors subject to the same rules as Brian Williams and Lester Holt.
Update 11/7/10 9:30pm…MSNBC chief Phil Griffin has announced the Olbermann will return to his show Tuesday night, so the suspension turned out to be nothing more than a long weekend. Whether the network will change the rule, or how the “Countdown” host will handle it, remain to be seen.