Lost in Scarborough Country  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   September 2010

Lost in Scarborough Country   

Web exclusive
MSNBC bungles another episode involving campaign contributions by its hosts. Posted: Fri, Nov. 19 2010

By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      


There they go again.

MSNBC, after its silly disciplining of host Keith Olbermann for making campaign contributions, is doubling down.

The latest malefactor in trouble with the generally left-leaning cable outlet is Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman and host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." His sin: He made a series of $500 donations to friends and family members who were running for office.

Give me a break.

I'm all for rules forbidding journalists from all manner of partisan activity, including giving money to political candidates. But applying the rules of MSNBC's broadcast cousin NBC rules designed to cover actual journalists―to Scarborough is just as ridiculous as applying them to Olbermann. The cable worthies are in a different business altogether.

Scarborough's background is in politics. He hosts a show that is heavy on point of view, not political reporting. Just this week, there was speculation that Scarborough might run on a presidential ticket with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. End of story.

Scarborough's conservative outlook is widely known. To his credit, he is more loyal to his principles than his party. Back when he was Evening Joe, appearing after Olbermann in prime time, Scarborough was extremely tough on then-President George W. Bush. And he's one of the more appealing, less strident figures in the cable political wars.

MSNBC's handling of the Olbermann affair was a textbook lesson in ham-fistedness. After Politico unearthed KO's contributions, the cable channel announced it was suspending the voluble host indefinitely.

Then, after much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth in the liberal blogosphere, MSNBC blinked. "Indefinitely" turned out to be "all of two days," the same punishment meted out to Scarborough.

Nice going, guys.

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