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MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough suspended for giving to Florida candidates



joe-scarborough-msnbc.pngIn a stunning pair of back-to-back releases, MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough and channel president Phil Griffin announced that Scarborough will serve a two-day suspension Monday and Tuesday for violating NBC News policies regarding political contributions.

The suspension is the second scalp to come from Politico's reporting on contributions by MSNBC personalities, falling two weeks after the cable newschannel suspended its biggest star, Keith Olbermann for unauthorized donations to three candidates.

In Scarborough's case, Politico found the anchor had made five previously undisclosed $500 donations since 2005 to candidates running for office around his Pensacola home area, including contributions to his brother, Fla. house candidate George Scarborough, Fla. House candidate Mike Gaetz and his father, Fla. Senate candidate Don Gaetz. After looking through his records, MSNBC told Politico Scarborough found three more $500 gifts to David Stafford, his former Congressional Chief of Staff , who was running for Escambia County supervisor of elections. Scarborough, a former U.S. Representative from the Panhandle, maintains friendships with several Florida politicians.

In a statement, Scarborough said he gave the donations to help friends and family, never thinking that NBC News policy required him to get prior approval.  Politico reported that some donations Scarborough gave were recorded in variations on his full name, Charles Joseph Scarborough, and his wife gave matching contributions on the same day. Mike Gaetz also got a $500 contribution last year from Scarborough's son Charles, who was a college student in Alabama.

"I recognize that I have a responsibility to honor the guidelines and conditions of my employment, and I regret that I failed to do so in this matter," Scarborough said in his statement. "I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions."

morning_joe.jpgMSNBC later released a tally of Scarborough's donations:

8 of $500 each
3        David Stafford
          Escambia County Supervisor of Elections
2        Matt Gaetz
          State House from Okaloosa County
1        Don Gaetz
          State Senate from Okaloosa County
2        George Scarborough
          State House from Escambia County
joe-scarborough.jpgSeveral critics, including me, have written about the inadequacy and absurdity of MSNBC's stance on these issues, essentially holding partisan pundits to the same political contribution guidelines as NBC News' objective reporters. Scarborough's case heightens the absurdity, as his undisclosed donations involved Florida political races he wasn't covering connected to friends and family who were not appearing on his show.
Daily Beast reporter Howard Kurtz wrote a provocative piece earlier this week detailing the civil war behind the scenes at NBC News over opinionating on MSNBC and the antics of opinionated anchors such as Olbermann. Such friction is likely to only increase, as Scarborough's suspension proves to old school journalists that MSNBC lacks controls, while new school journalists see the growing impracticality of applying traditional journalism rules to partisan cable news stars.
“Why doesn’t (NBC News) just develop a set of disclosure requirements for people who are coming from somewhere?” New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen said to me last week, after Olbermann's suspension.  “Because they don’t want to fight with the Tom Brokaws and David Gregorys of the world. So they are delaying the day of reckoning.”
Below, see MSNBC president Phil Griffin's statement and then Scarborough's words:
Statement from Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC:

This morning Joe Scarborough informed me that he made eight contributions of $500 each to local candidates in Florida between 2004-08. In my conversation with Joe two weeks ago, he did not recall these contributions. Since he did not seek or receive prior approval for these contributions, Joe understands that I will be suspending him for violating our policy. He will be immediately suspended for two days without pay and will return to the air on Wednesday, November 24th. As Joe recognizes, it is critical that we enforce our standards and policies.
Statement from Joe Scarborough:
It was recently brought to my attention that I made political contributions over the past several years that are not consistent with MSNBC's guidelines. These contributions were to close personal friends and family members and were limited to local races.

Despite the fact that these races were local and not relevant to my work at MSNBC, I have been told they violated MSNBC guidelines.

I recognize that I have a responsibility to honor the guidelines and conditions of my employment, and I regret that I failed to do so in this matter. I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions.

I gave a number of $500 contributions to my brother and three longtime family friends. These contributions were nothing more than simple acts of friendship. I gained nothing personally, politically, or professionally from these donations.

To be blunt, I had no interest in their campaigns other than being kind to longtime friends.

Because the contributions involved local, non-competitive races--and were given for personal rather than political reasons--I mistakenly believed I did not need approval from MSNBC. I also apologize for that oversight.

After learning of this situation, I called Phil Griffin and agreed with Phil's immediate demand of a two-day suspension without pay.

I am proud to work for the NBC News family. There is nothing more important than maintaining the integrity of its highly respected brand.

I apologize to Phil Griffin, Steve Capus, and my colleagues. This will not happen again.






[Last modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 6:39am]


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