Last night Keith Olbermann issued the following statement:
A STATEMENT TO THE VIEWERS OF COUNTDOWN
by Keith Olbermann
I want to sincerely thank you for the honor of your extraordinary and ground-rattling support. Your efforts have been integral to the remedying of these recent events, and the results should remind us of the power of individuals spontaneously acting together to correct injustices great or small. I would also like to acknowledge with respect the many commentators and reporters, including those with whom my politics do not overlap, for their support.
I also wish to apologize to you viewers for having precipitated such anxiety and unnecessary drama. You should know that I mistakenly violated an inconsistently applied rule – which I previously knew nothing about – that pertains to the process by which such political contributions are approved by NBC. Certainly this mistake merited a form of public acknowledgment and/or internal warning, and an on-air discussion about the merits of limitations on such campaign contributions by all employees of news organizations. Instead, after my representative was assured that no suspension was contemplated, I was suspended without a hearing, and learned of that suspension through the media.
You should also know that I did not attempt to keep any of these political contributions secret; I knew they would be known to you and the rest of the public. I did not make them through a relative, friend, corporation, PAC, or any other intermediary, and I did not blame them on some kind of convenient ‘mistake’ by their recipients. When a website contacted NBC about one of the donations, I immediately volunteered that there were in fact three of them; and contrary to much of the subsequent reporting, I immediately volunteered to explain all this, on-air and off, in the fashion MSNBC desired.
I genuinely look forward to rejoining you on Countdown on Tuesday, to begin the repayment of your latest display of support and loyalty – support and loyalty that is truly mutual.
Keith issues a great apology to his viewers, but he also is slamming MSNBC. This seems very appropriate given the circumstances. It also sounds like a case of “didn’t know the rules”, which is very common. On top of that, it does rekindle a debate about the actual policy:
NBC and MSNBC TV require permission of the president of NBC News. (MSNBC.com is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft.)
“Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee.”
The debate has been over the use of the word “should”. That implies that it is optional, yet highly encouraged. With all the legal staff and human resource types that NBC/MSNBC employ, couldn’t they have come up with a more definitive wording? If you want to get technical about it, Keith didn’t violate this policy. Yeah he “should” have reported it, but he didn’t. Anyone who has attended any kind of law course knows the difference between should and shall.
In the end, it looks like MSNBC and specifically Phil Griffin are the ones with egg on their face from this whole episode. If MSNBC wants to continue their ratings growth then they need to look at better management and not some childish dictator that Griffin appears to be.