MSNBC said Friday that it is suspending “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough for two days after he acknowledged giving eight previously unknown $500 contributions to friends and family members running for state and local offices during his tenure at the network, a violation of parent NBC’s ban on political contributions by employees without specific permission from the network president.

“I recognize that I have a responsibility to honor the guidelines and conditions of my employment, and I regret that I failed to do so in this matter,” Scarborough said in a statement. “I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions,” said, adding that after he was made aware of some of the contributions, he called MSNBC president Phil Griffin “and agreed with Phil’s immediate demand of a two-day suspension without pay.”

So, let me get this straight. MSNBC hired a former Republican congressman to host a show in which he freely shares his opinions, and endorses the GOP line on most issues. But if he makes fairly modest contributions to Republican candidates — not in secret to the Chamber of Commerce, but fully disclosed, legal donations — it warrants a suspension without pay?

Obviously, this comes on the heels of the recent Keith Olbermann controversy, and I have a hard time believing Scarborough would have faced this punishment if the “Countdown” host hadn’t just faced the identical rebuke.

The point, though, is that the Olbermann suspension was a mistake. This is, too.

In fairness to MSNBC, the Scarborough matter may be slightly worse, not just because there were a few more donations, but because the “Morning Joe” host was asked by MSNBC president Phil Griffin about political activities, and Scarborough didn’t disclose these contributions. Scarborough apparently forgot about them, and I’m not in a position to know whether it was an innocent lapse or a deliberate effort to deceive. (Since some of the donations go back a few years, I’m not inclined to give Scarborough the benefit of the doubt here.)

But really, either way, the punishment strikes me as unwarranted. Maybe it’s time to revisit those network standards?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.