Kurtz, who is now the Washington bureau chief for the Daily Beast, and the Nation's media writer Greg Mitchell (who also blogs for the Huffington Post) were on the show to debate the ethics of political contributions by members of the news business. Unsurprisingly, the debate focused on Olbermann's three donations to Democratic candidates in late October. Olbermann's failure to ask his superiors for permission to donate -- he said he was unaware that this rule existed -- resulted in his suspension, which ended on Tuesday.
Kurtz told Olbermann that he had overstepped the line separating journalists from partisans.
"I believe you made a serious mistake, Keith, with these Democratic donations, beyond the question of whether you knew about the NBC policy," he said. There has to be some kind of line separating journalists, and I know you consider yourself a journalist, from partisan players."
Olbermann asked Kurtz that, if he felt that journalists personally could not donate, that meant that Olbermann's corporate bosses at General Electric -- or, in the near future, at Comcast -- could not give money to politicians either. Kurtz said that Olbermann was raising a different set of issues there.
"Once you get up to the corporate level, where they're not meddling with newsroom decisions...corporations are going to give money," he said.
Mitchell disagreed with Kurtz, saying that "in the real world, owners of companies have an interest" in the output of their news divisions.