Keith Olbermann loves Lawrence, sets him free: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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He’s baaaaaaack! Keith Olbermann returned from a two-week vacation on Monday. Meanwhile, MSNBC announced that his substitute host Lawrence O’Donnell’s own show, “The Last Word,” will debut Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. Olbermann’s little bird is flying from the nest to build his own! Now there will be two shoddily constructed, little-watched nests trying to avoid being eaten by Fox. This won’t end well.

Let’s not think about that now, though. The point is, our Keith is back. I missed you, Keith! (Not true.) America missed you! (Really not true: Ratings for “Countdown” in July were the lowest they’ve been since April 2008.) TV wasn’t the same without you! (Technically true.)

Let’s take a look at his first week back at “Countdown.”

MONDAY, AUGUST 2: Tonight’s episode had it all: Righteous anger! Incorrect facts! Lady Gaga!

During the “Tweet of the Day” segment, Olbermann read an eloquent tweet from someone named Dceltic123. “How in the hell did FOX NEWS get the seat held by Helen Thomas did the WHITE HOUSE JUST OVERLOOK NPR. BAD MOVE.”

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Olbermann said he was using the tweet because it “helps us clear up a popular misconception.” Good move, because there are actually three distinct errors in that little tweet! Alas, Olbermann only found one of them.

“Actually, the White House doesn’t have a say in that decision,” he corrected, correctly. “The White House Correspondents Association made the bad move and took away valuable time from the association‘s real purpose: holding an annual banquet.”

Har har. And true, so far as it goes. Too bad the whole premise is wrong, too. In fact, the AP will take Helen Thomas’s seat, and Fox will move up in to the front-row seat formerly occupied by the AP. NPR, rather than being “overlooked,” will also move forward, into the second row. But that’s not as fun as a massive right-wing conspiracy driven by, um, the Obama White House.

I almost forgot to mention Lady Gaga! She was the night’s number one story, because of something she screamed onstage about Arizona’s immigration law at a concert in Phoenix. For this, Olbermann called her “a voice of reason in Arizona‘s immigration hysteria.” To be fair, it’s hard to recognize an actual “voice of reason” when you’re deaf to it.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 3: Tonight, Olbermann found racism in the fact that at one point, all eight of those under investigation by the House Ethics Committee were black, including Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, both formally charged this week. Whoops! You may be getting ahead of yourself on that one. This might actually be a case of straight-up corruption. A blogger for the liberal American Prospect wrote that “I don’t think there’s anything particularly racial about these ethics investigations; it’s just that long-term incumbency breeds this kind of corruption.” On Thursday, “The Daily Show” did a segment on the kerfuffle, concluding that “the race card has been maxed out,” and pointing out that the Congressional Black Caucus has been “overusing the card for years.” So simmer down, Keith. You know what happened to the boy who cried wolf: He was eaten by racism.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4: A California judge overturned California’s gay marriage ban on Wednesday, prompting Olbermann to rerun his own long 2008 Special Comment on the topic. Where his slavering fans doubtless see noble inspiration, I see the kind of laziness employed by writers who quote themselves at great length.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 5: But maybe I should give him a break. It was a tough week for Olbermann. Sure, they all are — he’s a lonely, angry man who thinks the world is out to get him — but this one was in particular: On Thursday, news started to break in a few outlets that Olbermann will not appear on NBC’s Sunday “Football Night In America” broadcasts this NFL season, which he has done since 2007. Apparently the booting was a request from NBC’s news division, which has perhaps noticed how much Olbermann is absent from “Countdown” during football season. Also baseball season. Also monsoon season, summer movie season and anytime “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” comes up on his iTunes shuffle. That song just really speaks to him.

Now, the good news: On Twitter today, Olbermann revealed the cover of his upcoming book, which I personally will almost certainly be forced to read for professional reasons. (Note to self: Call therapist and ask if I can add a third weekly appointment.) It’s called “Pitchforks and Torches: The Worst of the Worst, From Beck, Bill and Bush to Palin and Other Posturing Republicans.” Ah, that title just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? The original title Keith announced a few months ago was “Keith Olbermann’s Hall of Shame,” but it’s a man’s prerogative to change his mind. “Pitchforks and Torches” takes its new name for Olbermann’s nightly introduction to his “Worst Persons in the World” segment (“Get out your pitchforks and torches …”). The photo on the front cover, in which Keith summons his best “I’m the only one who has the guts to tell it like it is” face, makes me laugh and laugh. “Pitchforks and Torches” will be available for $24.95 at a bookseller near you in October, and $1.99 at a remainder bin near you in November.