Keith Olbermann has a mean streak: We watch, because we’re paid to

Almost every night on “Countdown,” Keith Olbermann names three “Worst Persons in the World.” He also wrote a 2006 book with same title. (The fact that the cover bears a huge photo of its author always cracks me up.) One night in February, he grandiosely announced that he was discontinuing the “Worst Person” segment in favor of a “Hall of Shame” — and, surprise, he has a “Hall of Shame” book coming out in October — but soon enough he returned to naming Worst Persons. This week provided a good opportunity to look at the Worst Person segment in depth. It’s as mysterious and maddening as the man himself.

FRIDAY, APRIL 23: Olbermann came out swinging tonight, naming media scion James Murdoch one of the Worst Persons. Murdoch’s crime: storming into a newspaper office and yelling about a headline that displeased him. Heavens! It’s pretty ballsy for Olbermann to get upset about this during the same week in which it was widely reported that he threw a temper tantrum forcing a fellow MSNBC talking head off the air.

He also had to correct a previous Worst Person designation. The AP had reported that New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s staff was earning $2 million more per year than his predecessor’s staff, which Olbermann had pounced on. (Three guesses about whether he would have cared about this if Christie were a Democrat.) In fact, the difference was $440,000.

Now, it’s not Olbermnann’s fault that the AP got the story wrong. But his so-called apology was typically obnoxious: He explained the new figure, and dismissively said, “Like THAT’s OK.” He also didn’t mention the fact that the $440,000 includes Christie’s salary, which the governor’s gazillionaire predecessor Jon Corzine had declined. When you factor everything together, the average Corzine staffer earned $71,440 a year, while Christies’ staffers make $75,726.

I guess Olbermann’s point is that employees shouldn’t be paid well when their organization is going through tough times. If that’s the case, maybe he should take a pay cut in response to MSNBC’s ratings.

MONDAY, APRIL 26: Olbermann named a Thai restaurant in Australia on of the Worst “Persons” in the World tonight. The less said, the better.

Meanwhile, he also suggested that Sarah Palin had committed perjury during the trial of the young man accused of hacking into her e-mail account. His exact words: “In testifying that she did not conduct gubernatorial business that way, she may have committed perjury.”

Unfortunately, guest Dave Weigel soon joined him to throw cold water on that idea. “You seem to be having a good night and I hate to wreck it for you,” he said. “But it doesn’t sound like she actually trapped herself in anything here.” Whoops! Good thing Keith himself isn’t legally bound to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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