On Friday, MSNBC announced that Nation editor Chris Hayes would temporarily replace suspended host Keith Olbermann on its prime time “Countdown” program. Then it learned that Hayes, too, has given money to political campaigns. Oops.
The reality is that quite a few cable news opinionators have given money to political campaigns, including several who host shows owned by NBC, including MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and CNBC’s Larry Kudlow. Fox personalities, including Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee, have done it too. Is this a problem? Not really.
I agree with Orin that strict application of rules against political activity by journalists to opinionated commentators and hosts is silly. No one believes these figures are neutral or objective journalists. They’re not reporters; they are commentators and entertainers. They have strong — often quite partisan — political views, and that’s part of their appeal. Whether or not Olbermann (or Hannity) gives a dime to a political campaign, we all know which candidates and causes they support. If media companies are concerned about perceptions of bias, they should focus more on the conduct — and the reporting — of actual reporters and editors, and less time worrying about the occasional political contributions of their nakedly partisan pundits.