What Role Did Comcast Play In Keith Olbermann's Suspension?--UPDATED With Comcast Response

Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely from MSNBC without pay for making political contributions. There is a double standard at work here.

There is a double standard at work with regard to Keith Olbermann's suspension, not only between other personalities appearing on MSNBC as commentators, but also at the very top level of the food chain.

Comcast now owns is about MSNBC after their acquisition was completed earlier this year is approved (and it will be, I'm sure), despite protestations from many of us. A look at campaign finance disclosures for several organizations shows that Phil Anschutz, chairman of Comcast, content partner with Comcast, donated large sums of money to the First Amendment Alliance, one of the largest outside groups targeting Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.

The Anschutz Corporation, wholly owned by Phil Anschutz, gave $50,000 on 9/24/2010 to the First Amendment Alliance. The two candidates targeted by the First Amendment Alliance? Jack Conway and Michael Bennet.

Keith Olbermann gave to Jack Conway's campaign along with Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords.

In addition, the Anschutz family donated $169,900 to Republican candidates and committees during the 2010 election cycle, according to Open Secrets.

Additionally, Comcast Corporation has contributed $125,000 to the Republican Governors' Association in the 2010 cycle (as of 9/30/2010). (Added: Comcast notes it has also donated the same sum to the DGA)

There's been a lot of chatter about MSNBC policy, and whether Olbermann should have gotten advance approval for his donations to Jack Conway, Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords on October 28th. The policy I've seen reads like this:

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."

That language clearly says "should" and not "must". Further, anyone who thinks Keith Olbermann is an impartial journalist should have their head examined. He's not, never has been, never will be, and is not presented as one.

But it leaves this question lingering for me: How is it that the parent corporation of NBC and chairman of that corporation, Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough are accorded First Amendment rights to political speech and Keith Olbermann is not?

GET THIS: From the NYTimes:

The News Corporation is one of the biggest suppliers of content to Comcast, with contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

UPDATE: PCCC has a petition you can sign to MSNBC: Tell MSNBC that if they want to keep their viewers, they must put Keith back on the air NOW!

And if you're on Twitter, progressives are tweeting MSNBC with their displeasure there too.

Gawker says NBC News denies their standards apply to MSNBC commentators.

For an understanding of the relationship between Anschutz and Comcast, see this Muckety map (Flash required). It's a combination of hockey teams, media, ticket sales and Qwest Communications. Some question the associations. They exist. I've linked to them. Here's another.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has issued a statement demanding Olbermann's immediate reinstatement.

“It is outrageous that General Electric/MSNBC would suspend Keith Olbermann for exercising his constitutional rights to contribute to a candidate of his choice. This is a real threat to political discourse in America and will have a chilling impact on every commentator for MSNBC.

“We live in a time when 90 percent of talk radio is dominated by right-wing extremists, when the Republican Party has its own cable network (Fox) and when progressive voices are few and far between.

“At a time when the ownership of Fox news contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party, when a number of Fox commentators are using the network as a launching pad for their presidential campaigns and are raising money right off the air, it is absolutely unacceptable that MSNBC suspended one of the most popular progressive commentators in the country.

“Is Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz next? Is this simply a ‘personality conflict’ within MSNBC or is one of America’s major corporations cracking down on a viewpoint they may not like? Whatever the answer may be, Keith Olbermann should be reinstated immediately and allowed to present his point of view.”

Jed Lewison over at Kos takes on the Joe Scarborough donations and hypocrisy in MSNBC's response.

Statement from Comcast:

“The joint venture between Comcast and GE has not yet received regulatory approval. Comcast is not in any way involved with decisions made currently by NBC News. We have pledged that when the transaction is concluded, Comcast will abide by the same policies for NBC’s news and public affairs programming that have been in place since GE acquired the company in 1986. Comcast is committed to the independence of NBC’s news operations.

We hope to acquire NBC Universal in the coming months, but by law we play no role in current operations. Mr. Philip Anschutz is not the chairman of Comcast Corporation, nor is he on its board, or in any way involved with the management of the company.”

ThinkProgress notes another possible tie between Comcast and Olbermann's suspension.

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