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MSNBC Suspends Scarborough Over Political Donations

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Talk show host Joe Scarborough
Talk show host Joe Scarborough. Photographer: Kris Connor/Getty Images

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- MSNBC suspended talk-show host Joe Scarborough for two days, marking the second time this month the cable news network punished one of its on-air personalities for making political contributions without prior permission.

Scarborough, host of “Morning Joe,” made eight $500 donations to candidates in Florida in violation of policy, MSNBC President Phil Griffin said today in an e-mailed statement. He will return Nov. 24.

The donations were made to his brother and three longtime friends, and were limited to local races in which he had no political interest, Scarborough said in the same e-mail. The episode follows MSNBC’s Nov. 5 suspension of host and political commentator Keith Olbermann, who gave a total of $7,200 to three Congressional candidates in the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

“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. “I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions.”

Olbermann’s two-day suspension sparked debate over whether MSNBC’s rules, intended to preserve impartiality, are outdated since the network’s programming strategy relies on partisan hosts like Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

Some news organizations ban political donations, while others allow them. MSNBC requires contributions be cleared in advance by the network.

Local Races

“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,” Scarborough said.

MSNBC is part of NBC Universal, the General Electric Co. unit that will be majority owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company. The deal is expected to close this year.

GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, rose 18 cents to $16.22 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, and has added 7.2 percent this year. Comcast lost 1 cent to $20.56 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, and has gained 22 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ronald Grover in Los Angeles at Rgrover5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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