SHORTEST SUSPENSION — IN THE WORLD…. We learned Friday morning that MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann contributed to three Democratic congressional candidates this year, with checks totaling $7,200. NBC News, citing personnel policies prohibiting such donations, announced Friday afternoon that the “Countdown” host had been suspended indefinitely, without pay.
The word “indefinitely” has a certain connotation, suggesting a fairly long period of time. With that in mind, it came as something of a surprise to learn late yesterday that Olbermann will be back behind his desk tomorrow.
“After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night’s program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy,” the MSNBC president, Phil Griffin, said in a statement. “We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night.”
Mr. Olbermann has declined interview requests since Friday, and he did not immediately confirm that he would resume his program, “Countdown,” as of Tuesday. But on Sunday afternoon, he posted to Twitter a thank-you to fans for “support that feels like a global hug.”
“MSNBC Folds!” read a headline on Daily Kos, one of the leading Web sites for progressives, on Sunday night after Mr. Griffin’s statement was released.
I’m not privy to internal NBC News deliberations, but this certainly seems like a fold on the network’s part.
To be sure, the executives found themselves in a pretty awkward position. If they ignored Olbermann’s transgression, they’d send a signal that they don’t take their own standards seriously enough. But by issuing an indefinite suspension, the network caused even more problems for themselves — the decision was widely panned as excessive; it angered MSNBC’s viewers; and kept its top-rated host off the air, which isn’t exactly good for ratings.
Faced with all of this, NBC News appears to have concluded that two nights off the air is sufficient punishment.
Whether one sees this as a face-saving gesture or not, I’m glad the flap is over.