Keith Olbermann is not the worst person in the world: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19: On Day 1 of Pundit School, the first rule is: Don’t use breezy comparisons to Hitler, Nazis or the Holocaust to score political points. (The second rule: You do not talk about Pundit School.)

Let’s see if Olbermann learned his lesson. Here he is discussing the Justice Department’s release of a review of Bush administration lawyers who authorized controversial interrogation methods.

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OLBERMANN: If you put this back into history and applied it directly to Nuremberg, the finding about the German judiciary system of the 1930s and ’40s would have been what?

GUEST JONATHAN TURLEY: Well, they could use this — if this report existed back in Nuremberg, it would have resulted in acquittals for all the people that we sentenced.

So, this Justice Department report is basically the same thing as letting Nazis roam free. “Countdown” is not known for its sense of proportion, but could this be a new low?

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22: Today, Olbermann got mad at Glenn Beck, and also the sun rose in the east and the Pope continued to be Catholic. Beck’s shocking offense today: Charging a fee for tickets to events at which he will be featured as a speaker. As Olbermann put it, “Corrupt much?”

Olbermann himself is much more selective about where he lends his name, and he only does it for the noblest of causes. Take, for example, that time he made a series of TV commercials for Boston Market. That’s completely different! Beck is a corrupt charlatan. Olbermann is just an average American trying to make an honest living by broadcasting his passion for Boston Market Extreme Carvers ™ Chicken Cheesesteak. It came with a free drink!

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23: This is a pet peeve that I’ve mentioned before, but I’ve always been baffled by the logic of Countdown’s “Worst Person in the World” selections, a mixture of hypocritical politicians, rival talking heads and small-time crooks whose crimes Olbermann finds hilarious. Well, big news: On Wednesday’s show, he announced that “since some of the people did not get that the title was ironic,” he will be changing the segment’s name to “The Countdown Hall of Shame,” effective immediately. Snooze. And it’s also disappointing to those of us who harbored dreams of someday being named the worst people in the world.

However, that abrupt announcement means Tuesday’s winners are the last worst people in the world — ever! Unless he changes his mind.

Unfortunately, the last Worsts were typically scattershot. They included a Greek former TV anchor accused of murdering her boss, a case Olbermann apparently brought up just as an excuse to make a joke about how “about 143 people I used to work with” deserved to be murdered instead. Then he moved on to naming Fox anchor Monica Crowley the day’s top winner. Displaying his usual class, he concluded this way: “For nine months in 2005, this person” — nice, dehumanizing touch! — “co-hosted a show on this network, and to exude this deep and abiding shallowness, apparently we actually paid her money. And we want it back.” You stay classy, Keith.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24: One of Olbermann’s former ESPN colleagues once said, “he didn’t burn bridges here — he napalmed them.” Today: more napalm! The first inductee to the new Countdown Hall of Shame is Mediate, a Web site run by Dan Abrams, Olbermann’s former MSNBC colleague. The current conflict involves the fact that Abrams’s news Web site carried a video clip from the Dallas Tea Party that Olbermann thought wasn’t fair to MSNBC. (Believe it or not, that’s the short, as-untedious-as-possible version of this conflict.) Today this prompted him to launch into this oh-so-subtle attack on Abrams:

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“In his attempt to implant his bitterness towards this place, to plug or weave it into his Web site, he has wigged out. He would like us to sweep his failure under the rug, as if it were a bald-faced lie, or there will be hell to pay.”

I love the smell of napalm in the evening.

After a show full of personal attacks like the one above — he also smirked his way through a “1-800-Bronzer” joke about John Boehner — the night ended with an extended, emotional, extremely personal speech addressing health-care reform and its connection to Olbermann’s father’s own failing health. The host skipped Thursday’s show to care for him. Here’s hoping for improved health so Olbermann the son can quickly return to where he belongs: America’s least-beloved anchor chair. Keith, you’ll always be the Worst Person in the World to me.

Previous weeks:

Keith Olbermann is a funny, funny man

Keith Olbermann is a serious journalist

Keith Olbermann understands important things

Keith Olbermann is incredibly smart