On Friday's Situation Room, The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz stated that the fundraising activities of Fox News contributors Dick Morris and Karl Rove somehow rose to a worse level than Keith Olbermann's maximum individual donations to three Democrats, which violated MSNBC's policy. Kurtz also suggested that both networks "tighten up on this stuff or just tear up the rule book."
Correspondent Mary Snow covered Olbermann's suspension during a report just before the bottom of the 6 pm Eastern hour. Snow began by noting how the anchor "has become a star power at MSNBC for voicing his liberal opinions, but Keith Olbermann is now sidelined for financially supporting three Democratic candidates. Records show he contributed $2,400 each to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway, and two members of Congress from Arizona: Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva." She continued that "Congressman Grijalva was a guest on Olbermann's show October 28, the same day Olbermann donated to his campaign."
Later, after recounting how the MSNBC personality has been "a vocal critic of Fox and its parent company, News Corp, for donating $1 million to the Republican Governors Association," the CNN correspondent played her clip from Kurtz, who gave his take on the Olbermann suspension and on the Fox News contributors' fundraising:
SNOW: The question is, where is the line drawn when Fox and MSNBC have clear political leanings? Media critic Howie Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources.'
KURTZ: At Fox News, you already have contributors like Karl Rove and Dick Morris, and sometimes Sean Hannity, actually going out and raising money for the Republican Party. That's a lot worse than what Keith Olbermann did, but I think that either networks (sic) are going to have to tighten up on this stuff, or just tear up the rule book and say, people can do whatever they want, which I think would be a serious mistake.
While Snow mentioned earlier that "NBC, like many news organizations, including CNN, enforces ethics policies that, among other things, prevent employees from making contributions considered a conflict of interests," neither she nor Kurtz mentioned that Fox News doesn't have such a policy.
The CNN anchor wrote something similar in his Friday column for Daily Beast, but did acknowledge the Fox News policy:
His [Olbermann's] mistake is not in the same league as what some Fox contributors have done. Karl Rove raised about $50 million in recent months for an independent group supporting Republican candidates. Dick Morris has raised money, spoken on behalf of candidates and refers to Republicans as 'we.' Sarah Palin barnstormed the country on behalf of her favored candidates, often of the Tea Party variety.
And one full-time Fox News host, Sean Hannity, has attended GOP fundraisers. Fox allows such activity for talk-show hosts and contributors, whom the network doesn't consider journalists. I've written about this from time to time; few people seem to care.
In a sense, the columnist is comparing apples and oranges. Instead of focusing on Rove and Morris, Kurtz should have just focused on the Olbermann/Hannity comparison, as both are hosts with clear political viewpoints, but he didn't give figures for Hannity's fundraising in either his CNN appearance or in his column.
Kurtz did go on and criticize liberal pundits' fundraising later in his column: "At CNN, where I host a weekly media program, James Carville and Paul Begala are contributors who also sign fundraising letters for the Democratic Party. If it were up to me, I wouldn't allow any of that." He also reprimanded Senator Bernie Sanders for coming to Olbermann's defense:
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the only avowed socialist in Congress, rushed out the following statement: "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."
Sanders has it exactly wrong. When you become a journalist, you give up certain rights. You can't write speeches on the side for politicians. You can't march in political demonstrations. And you shouldn't be able to donate money to politicians, unless you're hosting a cooking show.