Award-Winning Newscaster Suspended for Speaking at Tax Day Tea Party

A Rapid City, South Dakota, newscaster was suspended over a week ago for speaking at a tax day Tea Party.

As reported by the Rapid City Journal Wednesday:

KOTA TV newsman Shad Olson will be back on the air soon, following a disciplinary suspension from his news anchor duties in the Rapid City coverage area because of his speech at a tea party rally. 

Olson was taken off the air locally a few days after his April 15 speech at the Citizens for Liberty tax day rally in Memorial Park. 

"Shad's speech to the tax day rally was a lapse in ethics, so we took appropriate action," KOTA news director John Petersen said.

On April 15, The Dakota Voice reported what Olson said at the event:

Shad Olson followed Howie with an inspirational speech about the exceptionalism of American values. He said he wasn't there to pick on Democrats, Independents or Republicans. "They all deserve a little TEA, in my book," said Olson. "Especially the ones who are drinking the Koolaid that's currently being handed out inside the Beltway in Washington D.C."

Olson said there is a misunderstanding among some that we should feel patriotic about paying our taxes, but that it is being done in a way that founding fathers never intended.

Olson referenced something that had been on the socialist interloper's sign in small letters "Tax millionaires not the middle class" and said that it was truly patriotic to call for a reduction in taxes not just on the middle class but on millionaires as well because it is the wealthy who use their wealth to pursue their talents, creating corporations and industries that produce jobs...which means greater prosperity for all, including the middle class.

Olson made it clear that he is well informed about America's history and our founding principles, and left the crowd of patriots even more excited about their great country than when the [sic] came.

Doesn't sound inflammatory enough to warrant suspension, does it?

This seems especially the case since Olson's political views have never been a problem in the ten years he's worked for Rapid City's ABC affiliate. As the Journal reported:

[Olson said] that people who believe that his tea party speech reflects a political bias that could affect his news work should watch and judge for themselves.

"The fact that they didn't realize until now the passionate feeling and beliefs I hold about the history of our country and its values should be evidence enough of my ability to provide an unbiased news account day in and day out," Olson said. [...]

"I want people to fall back in love with their country based on what the founding principles are and the legacy left by the people who fought and bled and died to establish America on this continent," he said.

Olson said he is non-partisan in his advocacy and believes that his personal beliefs coincide with the tea party movement in general.

And Olson has had a stellar career at KOTA up to this point:

During a broadcast career that began when he was 17 at his hometown radio station, Shad's work has consistently generated critical acclaim, garnering more than a dozen awards in both radio and television.

In 2007, Shad was a finalist for a National Emmy Award for his four-part investigative documentary on the life of a child prostitute, entitled, 'Tonya's Story.' That competition pitted Shad's work against teams of multiple people from stations in Nashville, Cleveland and Phoenix. 'Tonya's Story' also captured a Regional Emmy Award (Minneapolis) and an Edward R. Murrow Award, beating out stations in North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

2007 also brought Shad his eleventh Associated Press accolade in the past eight years, winning 'Best Investigative-Enterprise' for his undercover expose on lax security at Rapid City's two public high schools. With Shad wandering the halls with a hidden camera, the 'Stranger Danger Test,' provided a startling look at how easy it would be for an intruder to invade two buildings filled with hundreds of students and staff. The resulting footage provided a video resource used by school administration in tightening security loopholes on both the Central and Stevens Campuses.

Impressive indeed. But does any of that matter?

Hot Air's Ed Morrissey raised some interesting points on this subject Wednesday:

Dan Rather took a lot of heat for speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Texas, which conservatives used to paint him as biased. Rather claimed that he didn't know the event was a fundraiser, but as the Washington Post reported at the time, he wasn't exactly contrite about it, either. His management at CBS had a different opinion, but didn't suspend Rather, calling it an "honest oversight."

Olson's appearance didn't involve fundraising, or even partisan identification. However, it still speaks to the basic problem for supposedly objective journalists and political activism. The Tea Party is at least philosophically opposed to the current agenda of the Democratic Party, even if its activists aren't entirely sold on the GOP, either. A keynote speech would not be a problem for an opinion journalist, but for a reporter? I suspect that had we seen Brian Williams as a speaker at an antiwar rally in 2004, he'd still be hearing about it from conservative critics. While reporters are American citizens like anyone else and have the right to participate in the political process, their publishers/editors have the right to consider whether that erodes confidence in their product, too.

Good points all. 

As Morrissey noted, since this wasn't a fundraising event or a rally for a political candidate, this shouldn't necessarily warrant suspension.

After all, newscasters make commencement speeches every year. TVNewser just published a schedule of this year's high-profile addresses. Think some of these people will be talking a little politics in front of the graduating class of 2010? 

With this in mind, exactly how "unethical" was Olson's behavior? 

Tea Parties
Noel Sheppard's picture


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