Fresh off having given Keith Olbermann a two-day suspension without pay for donating to three Democratic candidates, MSNBC has done the same to Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough for making eight contributions to candidates (including his brother) in local Florida races between 2004 and 2008.
I wrote about this issue when Olbermann was suspended, and the policy is no less silly now. This is a good point to mention that my current column in the print TIME (not yet available online) elaborates on the Olbermann affair, as well as this year’s rash of firings/punishments for media persons expressing opinions. Taken together, they show us that the old notion of “objectivity”–really, a false, forced neutrality for appearances’ sake–is becoming increasingly untenable. And I’d much rather news organizations focused on the actual quality of their coverage than pointless matters of public image like this anyway. Would Scarborough be any more objective, or less opinionated, if he hadn’t made the donations?
In any case, the most amazing thing about the donations is that Scarborough contends he made the donations not out of politics, but just to be polite to personal friends. In other words, he had a perfectly good excuse to cheap out–sorry, the boss won’t let me–and yet he passed on it! What self-respecting journalist does that?
Statements from MSNBC and Scarborough after the jump:
STATEMENT FROM PHIL GRIFFIN REGARDING JOE SCARBOROUGH
Statement from Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC:
This morning Joe Scarborough informed me that he made eight contributions of $500 each to local candidates in Florida between 2004-08. In my conversation with Joe two weeks ago, he did not recall these contributions. Since he did not seek or receive prior approval for these contributions, Joe understands that I will be suspending him for violating our policy. He will be immediately suspended for two days without pay and will return to the air on Wednesday, November 24th. As Joe recognizes, it is critical that we enforce our standards and policies.
Statement from Joe Scarborough:
It was recently brought to my attention that I made political contributions over the past several years that are not consistent with MSNBC’s guidelines. These contributions were to close personal friends and family members and were limited to local races.
Despite the fact that these races were local and not relevant to my work at MSNBC, I have been told they violated MSNBC guidelines.
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. I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions.
I gave a number of $500 contributions to my brother and three longtime family friends. These contributions were nothing more than simple acts of friendship. I gained nothing personally, politically, or professionally from these donations.
To be blunt, I had no interest in their campaigns other than being kind to longtime friends.
Because the contributions involved local, non-competitive races–and were given for personal rather than political reasons–I mistakenly believed I did not need approval from MSNBC. I also apologize for that oversight.
After learning of this situation, I called Phil Griffin and agreed with Phil’s immediate demand of a two-day suspension without pay.
I am proud to work for the NBC News family. There is nothing more important than maintaining the integrity of its highly respected brand.
I apologize to Phil Griffin, Steve Capus, and my colleagues. This will not happen again.