ABC Skips Conservative Voices for Stories on Olbermann Suspension, Mostly Avoids 'Liberal' Label

During four days of coverage, ABC skipped the conservative perspective while reporting on Keith Olbermann's suspension. The network also used the liberal label only once. Good Morning America covered the story on Saturday and Monday and never used the word.

Friday's Nightline briefly highlighted the story. Anchor Bill Weir referred to Olbermann as MSNBC's "liberal star" and someone who has "leftward leanings." On Monday's GMA, co-host Robin Roberts pontificated on the cable host, suspended because he made political donations to three Democrats.

She fretted, "It's a move that raises questions about the changing role of journalism and whether cable news networks and others are abandoning the goal of impartial reporting." (Conservatives would probably argue that MSNBC long ago stopped caring about such things.)

Reporter Andrea Canning seemed to defend Olbermann as somehow a different case: "Here at ABC, there are similar restrictions, but some say the rules for an outspoken partisan like Olbermann should be different."

On Saturday, New York Times media analyst Brian Stelter appeared on GMA and hit Olbermann for his connection to the Democratic Party: "He basically hosts the Democratic nightly news. It's no surprise that he supports Democrats. But the surprise is that he put his money where his mouth is."

But, does anyone think a similar story could be done about Rush Limbaugh without GMA referring to the radio host as conservative?

A transcript of the November 8 segment, which aired at 7:11am EST, follows:

 ROBIN ROBERTS: MSNBC says Keith Olbermann will be back on the air tomorrow night. The anchor was suspended without pay Friday after making campaign contributions to three Democratic candidates for Congress. It's a move that raises questions about the changing role of journalism and whether cable news networks and others are abandoning the goal of impartial reporting. Andrea Canning joins us with much more on this. Good morning, Andrea.

ANDREA CANNING: Good morning to you, Robin. An NBC executive says this issue is cut and dried. Olbermann broke the rules when they gave money to candidates without first getting permission. Here at ABC, there are similar restrictions, but some say the rules for an outspoken partisan like Olbermann should be different.

KEITH OLBERMANN: You are a fascist! Get them to print you a t-shirt with fascist on it!

CANNING: For the moment, Keith Olbermann may be suspended. But, he still has a voice. Tweeting Sunday, "Greetings from exile. A quick, overwhelmed stunned thank you for support that feels like a global hug and obviously left me tweetless. XO."

OLBERMANN: This advice, Mr. Bush: Shut the hell up!

CANNING: NBC pulled Olbermann off the air last week after it was revealed the popular host broke network policy by donating, $2,400 each, the maximum allowed to these three Democratic candidates to Kentucky and Arizona. But Sunday, MSNBC's president released this statement: "After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night's program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy." MSNBC is also disputing reports from the website Politico that Olbermann had refused to make an on camera apology.

JOHN HARRIS (Editor in chief, Politico): They have to protect, not simply Keith Olbermann's reputation and his bond with viewers, but they have to protect the reputation of the entire news division.

CANNING: Fellow MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has also made political contributions. One in 2006 and the other during this past election. But, NBC says he did not break any rules issuing this statement. "Joe had prior approval for the '06 contribution. The 2010 contribution was from Joe's wife." Olbermann himself has criticized political contributions from other media organizations, taking the parent company of Fox News to task when News Corp gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association earlier this year.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org