MSNBC Could Keep David Shuster Off the Air Indefinitely

By Gail Shister 

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MSNBC bad boy David Shuster may be on his third strike.

Shuster won’t be on the air today for his 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. shows, according to MSNBC insiders. Whether he returns before his contract expires in December is up for debate.

Shuster’s last appearance was at 10 a.m. Friday. MSNBC boss Phil Griffin pulled him from his 3 p.m. gig after learning, via The New York Observer, that the anchor had recently shot a pilot for CNN without having informed his bosses.

Griffin, vacationing in Florida, ripped Shuster a new one over the phone, network sources say. A repeat performance is expected today in the office.

It’s not the first steel cage match between Shuster and Griffin, but it may be the last.

In February 2008, Shuster was suspended for two weeks and forced to apologize after a tasteless on-air crack about Chelsea Clinton‘s presidential politicking for her mother, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Most recently, in January, MSNBC ordered Shuster to stop tweeting after his Twitter attack on conservative video producer James O’Keefe.

In the past, MSNBC reps have been downright temperate in their official reactions to Shuster’s mishaps. This time, however, they’ve taken a giant step – for MSNBC, anyway — beyond temperate. If Shuster is guilty, he will “be punished appropriately.”

At this point, “appropriately” may mean keeping Shuster off the air and eating the remainder of his contract. Anything less “sends a message from management that this is OK,” says an MSNBC executive, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s just ridiculous.”

According to The Observer, Shuster co-anchored the CNN pilot with NPR’s Michel Martin. CNN legal eagle Jeffrey Toobin was a contributor. CNN had no comment. Martin and Toobin did not return calls. When reached on his cell, Shuster said, “I can’t talk about it,” and hung up.

Ironically, Shuster began his career in 1990 at CNN. He joined MSNBC in 2002 following a six-year stint at Fox News.