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Keith Olbermann’s Thin Skin Syndrome: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor

Keith Olbermann has a thin skin. This week, he brazenly showed off that skin on the air – but only metaphorically, thank God. Keith, you tease!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3: In his nightly “Tweet of the Day” segment, Olbermann usually reads slavering compliments about himself or terrible jokes about his enemies. Tonight, he opted to read a Twitter posting by someone named Don Williams whose Twitter name is “Anita Bigone.” “We’ll ignore the 9th-grade-level troll pseudonym,” Olbermann began. Then he promptly failed to ignore the 9th-grade troll. Williams’s tweet to Olbermann read “Where are you going to go when state sponsored television fires you?”

Harmless teasing unworthy of a response? Obviously you don’t know Keith Olbermann. “Well, it did,” he responded huffily. On air. On his nationally broadcast news show. “Fox in 2001 did. And then I went to CNN and ABC Radio for a while and then I came back here in ‘03.” SO THERE.

Now, when you go to Don Williams’s Twitter page, which I do not recommend and will therefore not link to, here’s what you’ll find: Almost every single one of his 76 tweets consist of crude insults to Olbermann. His profile photo is a photo of Keith Olbermann’s mother. The account seems to have been created solely to get Olbermann mad. And yet, instead of ignoring this obvious troll, Keith Olbermann reads his words aloud and takes them seriously enough to respond with an earnest job history.

Keith, please understand how much it hurts me to say this: You’re better than this.

As for 9th-grade level name-calling: Tonight alone, Olbermann called Glenn Beck Beelze-Beck, Cardinal Beck-menef, the Prince of Beckness, Sister Mary Beck Elephant, Siddhartha Beck-tama, and Aqua Beck-a, and he called John Boehner “John of Orange.” He regularly calls Fox News Clusterfox, and he’s called Sarah Palin an idiot dozens of times on-air. If I listed all his stupid, crude and cruel nicknames here they’d take up the whole column.

Later in the show, another flash of that seductive thin skin: Olbermann referred to Beck as “the man who made a joke about my dead mother” for at least the third time by my count. This accusation is based on the least forgiving interpretation of a weeks-old, incredibly short back-and-forth on Beck’s radio show. (I discussed it here last week). Poor Keith. It honestly must be exhausting to carry so much heavy grudges.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7: A frequent sign that Thin Skin Syndrome is escalating is outbreak of Wild Exaggeration. Olbermann’s prognosis doesn’t look good.

Tonight, he edged up to accusing an insurance company of killing a sick little boy by denying payment of an experimental treatment; the story is tragic, but it must be noted that in the end the boy got the necessary treatments, and they were paid for. It’s not quite fair to say, as Keith did, “In the end, the insurance company won,” as if they were twirling their mustaches and rooting for death. Though to be fair, I’m sure Keith wasn’t paid for tonight’s heartstring-tugging show.

But tonight’s Worst Exaggeration in the World goes to the Worst Person in the World segment. The award went to Rupert Murdoch, who Keith reported is “helping Kim Jong-il build nuclear weapons in North Korea.” Yes, really. Here’s how he got there:

  1. News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch, published a mobile phone application based on “The Big Lebowski.”
  2. The game developers were based in North Korea.
  3. Therefore, Murdoch is personally responsible for nuclear development in North Korea.

By the way, did you know that General Electric, which own MSNBC, settled a case in July in which it was accused of making bribes to various Iraqi ministries to secure contracts under the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food program? You might say, if you were Keith Olbermann, that a person whose show brings in money for GE is directly responsible for the situation in Iraq.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9: Tonight’s “Countdown” wasn’t where the real Olbermann excitement was.

First, NBC Sports officially confirmed that Olbermann will not be returning to “Football Night in America,” a Sunday show he’s appeared on since 2007. The departure had been heavily rumored a few weeks ago, but now it’s official. Football fans have all the luck.

Then, Olbermann appeared on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” which he’s done several times before. It was a love-fest. Paul Shaffer played him on with a song by Big Head Todd and the Monsters, which I have to admit was funny. It because less funny when Keith tried to ape self-deprecation and good humor, which he just can’t pull off. “My mother ’til the day she died complained about it,” he said, which is kind of gross. Also, NO JOKING ABOUT DEAD MOTHERS.

After discussing the New York City mosque and the Florida pastor who wants to burn the Koran, somehow Keith got on the subject of Rush Limbaugh. “I met Rush Limbaugh in the 1980 World Series, when he still worked in baseball for the KC Royals.” Get to the point, Keith. “I met him at ESPN, and he came up to see me; he wanted to be on the football show, said he’d trade everything he had to be on the football show.” Well, neither of you have football shows now! Then, holding himself up as a shining counterexample, Olbermann said: “I wouldn’t do [just] anything to be on television.” Maybe he does have a sense of humor after all.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9: As it turned out, however, there was no need at all to watch Letterman on Wednesday night, because Keith replayed almost the entire appearance tonight on “Countdown.”

Then he interviewed the coauthor of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s new book. I will hand it to Keith on this one. It’s very hard to appear smug when discussing the origins of the universe. No matter what we know, there’s a hell of a lot we don’t know, and it’s the kind of thing that makes most people feel small and humble.

Not Keith! He barreled ahead, smirking as usual and turning the segment into an excuse to ridicule all religious people everywhere. He also asked probing questions such as “Neither of you are claiming to know everything, are you?” Near the end of the segment, floundering, he asked how cosmology was going (ha!) and if they’d ever “know without doubt if it’s correct or incorrect.” Oh, man, Keith, you’re in the deep end now. Paddle hard, little buddy. That thin skin of yours won’t last long in here.