Keith Olbermann, Human Resources, and Free Speech


I know you’ve heard that MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been was suspended indefinitely without pay after POLITICO reported that he made three campaign contributions to Democratic candidates. There’s additional reporting from Mediaite that Olbermann was suspended for refusing to apologize on air.

Many people are asking — did MSNBC get it right for suspending Olbermann? If the network has a policy against political donations, does Olbermann have any recourse? What about other employees of NBC — or other journalists/pundits/entertainers — who donate to political campaigns? Is it fair to punish Olbermann but not come down on Joe Scarborough, Larry Kudlow, or Sean Hannity?

I think those questions are dumb. And obvious. And worded in a way to arrive at a single answer.

Do we have any constitutional scholars out there?

Because I really want to know why it’s okay for special interest groups, unions and foreign governments to donate to political campaigns but it’s not okay for employees of NBC Universal. The Supreme Court ruled that spending money is a form of free speech — but most Americans aren’t self-employed and must enter into a relationship with a company in order to earn money in the first place. So when an employer places limits on how/when political contributions are made, it seems to me that they are placing a de facto limit on a citizen’s right to free speech.

And the right to free speech is guaranteed under the Constitution, no?

Again, I’m not a constitutional scholar.

But I want to know what comes first…

  • My rights and privileges under the constitution or
  • an employer’s right to place limits on the behaviors of its employees?


Someone tell me.

And don’t cop out and tell me that I don’t have to work for a company. Duh. I know. But I’m establishing (within the framework of this blog post) that I do have to work for SOMEONE in order to earn money and exercise my constitutional rights in parity with corporations and unions and foreign-controlled organizations.

And I’m asking — can a company control my political speech? Should they be able to?


Late revision: Yeah, I know, I heard Keith is back. I still want answers to my questions about speech and employment.

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