It wasn’t entirely clear why MSNBC president Phil Griffin chose to suspend Keith Olbermann on Friday for a policy violation after years of tolerating his shenanigans. What’s more than clear is why Griffin reversed himself last night, unsuspending his star host after a mere two days: That’s how long it took Griffin to realize that Olbermann’s worth to the network exceeds his own.
That’s not how Griffin couched it, of course. He says two days off the air — Olbermann will return to “Countdown” tomorrow night — “is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy” against making political donations without clearing them ahead of time. That’s humbug, of course. A two-day suspension isn’t a punishment; it’s a long weekend.
Note that Olbermann hasn’t made any kind of public mea culpa or statement of regret. In fact, according to one report, Olbermann demanded and received an apology for the way he’s been treated. If true, it’s astonishing.
The entire situation reminds me of what’s been going on with the Minnesota Vikings, where Brett Favre has taken the utmost pains to make it clear it’s he, not head coach Brad Childress, who’s really in charge of the team. It’s a parallel the sportscaster in Olbermann would appreciate: Just as Childress was tempted to bench the headstrong and underperforming quarterback last week but ultimately decided he couldn’t risk it, so Griffin sought to make a point by benching Olbermann, only to end up demonstrating the opposite of what he intended: that Olbermann is the most powerful man at MSNBC.