While even Keith Olbermann’s critics seem to think that the possibility of MSNBC firing him for giving money to political candidates is a bridge to far, the whole episode has been a big reminder that the cable news host self-righteous hypocrite when it comes to journalistic ethics.
Case in point, see the following email exchange supplied to me by a former MSNBC employee. It’s between Olbermann and MSNBC producers who are trying to organize a friendly interoffice pool at the network to guess the outcome of the 2004 presidential election. Olbermann will have none of it:
From: XXXX (NBC Universal, MSNBC)
Sent: Sunday, October 31, 2004 10:53 AM
To: @MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann; @MSNBC Scarborough
Subject: Pool on how wins the elections…
Hi all –
XXXX and I were talking and came up with the idea of having a Countdown/Scarborough Country pool between our two staffs… You can chip in $5 and cast your bet on who would win the presidential race. Here’s how it will work, you need to give your best guess on the electoral college breakdown…
Here’s how it will work:
XXXX has offered to record your bet and take the $5 fee. The deadline is 3pm Monday November 1st.
You have to cast your bet on who will win, and the breakdown of the electoral votes… a tie will not be an acceptable answer. XXXX will keep a full record of everyone’s best and will announce the winner (let’s hope we have a winner on November 3rd, or 4th or sometime soon)…
And here’s Olbermann’s response:
From: Olbermann, Keith (NBC Universal, MSNBC)
Sent: Sunday, October 31, 2004 12:27 PM<br /> To: @MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann; @MSNBC Scarborough
Subject: RE: Pool on how wins the elections…
Actually, not to be a spoilsport, but on behalf of Countdown, I’ve always thought stuff like this gives a clear appearance of a conflict of interest, if not a practical conflict.
Countdown staffers will thus recuse themselves from any wagering on the election.
So in 2004, even the “appearance of a conflict of interest” involving private office high jinks wasn’t to be tolerated. In 2010, Olbermann’s writing checks to a candidate the same day they appear on his show and just a few days ahead of the election. For a guy that’s made a living perfecting the art of denouncing other people as hypocrites in stentorian tones, one would think he’d care more about having consistent principles.