U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a strong rebuke last night of NBC's decision to suspend MSNBC commentator and anchor Keith Olbermann, after it was revealed that the host had contributed several thousand dollars to Democratic candidates this year.
News of Olbermann's contribution were revealed this week by Politico, which has since found other major cable TV hosts who have given to candidates. Those hosts, however, were said to have donated within the guidelines set by their parent companies.
For example Joe Scarborough, who hosts "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, has donated much more than Olbermann over the years, but apparently within the guidelines set by NBC.
Sanders believes MSNBC is setting a double standard — it's OK to donate to the GOP, but not Democrats.
“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," said Sanders in a written statement. “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."
Sanders complains that if other cable networks and their anchors donate heavily to Republicans, if not actively help raise money for GOP causes, then why can't one lone commentator on MSNBC donate a few thousand dollars to progressive Democrats?
“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," said Sanders. “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.”
If Olbermann is not reinstated, perhaps former Gov. Howard Dean will fill in?
Dean has filled in on MSNBC before when Rachel Maddow took time off from her show. He even had Sanders on the show to talk about health care policy.
Earlier this week Dean vehemently denied rumors that he was planning to challenge Pres. Barack Obama in the Democratic primary in 2012. For now, Dean will co-chair the transition team of Governor-elect Peter Shumlin.