Keith Olbermann throws giant hissy fits: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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What a tumultuous week for Keith Olbermann! MSNBC announced that frequent “Countdown” substitute host — and actor! — Lawrence O’Donnell will host his own show at 10 p.m. weeknights, bumping the nightly rerun of “Countdown” to 11 p.m. Now who will cover for Keith when takes a month off, or gets so mad that he decides not to come to work?

The question of who will guest-host when Keith throws a hissy fit was given extra urgency by the fact that Keith threw a giant hissy fit this week. Let’s look back.

FRIDAY, JUNE 11: The week started normally enough, with some Bush-bashing, Cheney-bashing and long-winded BP-bashing. Ho hum.

MONDAY, JUNE 14: Refreshed by the weekend, Olbermann returned with an episode of Halliburton-haranguing, a rant against Rand Paul, a Tea Party “Worst Person in the World” and coverage of a surfing dog competition. Also, more BP-bashing. I know. Déjà vu. The week’s real excitement was yet to come.

TUESDAY, JUNE 15: “Countdown” offered live coverage of the week’s big political event: the president’s Oval Office speech about energy policy and the oil spill. Obama didn’t go far enough for Olbermann, who fussed on Twitter before the speech even started: “I gather this may not be the big picture broad canvas ‘never again’ speech redefining our nation’s energy addiction that many are expecting.” As soon as Obama finish speaking, Olbermann huffed to Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman that “It was a great speech if you’ve been on another planet for the last 57 days. Was that was needed tonight? Did he shoot really low?” A little later, having whipped himself up into a greater frenzy, he answered his own question: “I don’t think he aimed low. I don’t think he aimed at all.”

Ok, well, whatever. But when you criticize the president to a liberal audience, you should expect a little blowback, right? Surely no one bold enough to dish it could then fail to take it? Stay tuned …


WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16: Enter the blowback, and boy did it get ugly. Enter the nattering nabobs of negativism! Yes, it’s true: he had to face a slightly disrespectful comment on Daily Kos. Make sure your children aren’t reading over your shoulder, because this is ugly:

can’t verify, of course … but a friend in the news biz tells me he got a damaging e-mail from one of his pals at NBC. something to the effect that their anger was pre-planned because “beating up on the President has been good for ratings.”

Yep, that’s it. Now, if you’re thinking that this kind of tossed-off rumor-mongering comment doesn’t merit any kind of a response, especially on a site on which posts regularly receive hundreds of comments, then you don’t know Keith Olbermann. Keith Olbermann lets no slight go unanswered. No matter how small or innocuous or well-meaning, if you say something negative about Keith Olbermann, you’ll hear from Keith Olbermann. (Twitter has only made this tendency worse, but that’s a story for another day.)

Now, a battle between liberal website commenters and Keith Olbermann is like watching a boxing match between thin-skinned toddlers: The mildest sparring leaves both parties covered in blood and weeping profusely. It’s horrible to watch.

And so, in response to a mild comment in which speculation was clearly labeled as such, Olbermann quit the Daily Kos, where he’s been blogging for years. In his own words:

“I used to read a lot about how people here would ‘always have my back’ and trust me this was of palpable value as I fought opponents external and internal who try to knock me and Rachel off the air, all the time, in ways you can imagine and others you can’t. … You don’t agree with me, fine. You don’t want to watch because you don’t agree with me, fine. But to accuse me, after five years of risking what I have to present the truth as I see it, of staging something for effect, is deeply offensive to me and is an indication of what has happened here.”

Ha! I have so many questions:

  1. “Five years risking what I have”? What has he risked? He’s a millionaire talking head who made his name in political broadcasting by slamming George Bush from behind a desk to an audience of liberals. I’m honestly curious about this “risk.”
  2. Who is secretly trying to knock him off the air? And what can I do to help?
  3. Does this mean Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas will no longer appear on “Countdown”? Between this and the loss of Lawrence O’Donnell, pretty soon Olbermann’s guest list will be reduced to Howard Fineman, Howard Fineman wearing a fake mustache, and his own hand.

But answers will not be mine, because with that, the big baby took all his toys and went home.

By the way, as of this writing there are 1,814 comments on Olbermann’s final post. I fear for the man’s sensitive soul if any of them are in the slightest bit negative. Don’t you people appreciate this man and all the risks he’s taken for you?

THURSDAY, JUNE 17: Tonight Olbermann debuted the phrase “GOBP” — a combination of GOP and BP, GET IT?! — and he would not let viewers forget it. The man is not one to let a “joke” remain unbeaten into the ground. He put it on screen, he paused for a smirk after each time he uttered it, and aone point he even begged guest Chris Hayes to agree to its potential as an official Democratic Party talking point. Put it this way: If you were playing a drinking game tonight in which you took a shot each time Olbermann said “GOBP,” you would end up dead … or least drunk enough to enjoy “Countdown.”