First, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann returned from suspension, and now the most popular segment on his Countdown program The Worst Person In The World will make its return this evening. In response to a question about the segment Olbermann Tweeted, “We haven’t done the segment in three weeks. It returns tonight.”
After Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, Olbermann announced that he would be no longer doing the Worst Persons In The World Segment on Countdown, “But there is an institutionalization of it that may no longer be valid. That is the Worst Persons in the World segment, which started, of all things, as a way of defending Tucker Carlson. Its satire and whimsy have gradually gotten lost in some anger. So in the spirit of the thing, as of right now, I am unilaterally suspending that segment, with an eye towards discontinuing it.”
Even on November 1, Olbermann left the door open to bringing it back, “We don’t know how that works long-term. We might bring it back. We might bring back something similar to it. We might kill it outright. Next week, we will solicit your input. It’s just that today, given the serious stuff we have to start covering tomorrow, we think it’s the right time to do it short-term. And then we’ll see what happens. And we’ll also see if anybody else on TV or radio will do something similar.”
Needless to say, Olbermann’s fans were less than happy with the announcement. There have been constant calls for Olbermann to bring back the segment, and he announced via Twitter today that the segment will return this evening, “We haven’t done the segment in three weeks. It returns tonight.” All I can say about that is “good”. I never bought into the idea that WPITW was adding further negativity to the discourse. I always found the segment to be one of the more distinctive and enjoyable parts of Countdown.
As much as I admire Jon Stewart’s usually sharp media criticism, he was off base on this one. WPITW is in no way equivalent to much of the other daily negativity and venom spewed hourly on cable news. As a TV commercial for Countdown once pointed out, Olbermann isn’t really calling those in the segment the worst persons in the world. It is a chance for the audience to boo and hiss at the screen as they see some people exhibit less than admirable traits.
Fox News and WPITW are not equals. At the time, I didn’t think that Olbermann should have dropped the segment. It was an unnecessary overreaction to a bit of unjustified criticism. Olbermann and Countdown can become a little bit heavy handed at times. The show needs light segments like Worst Persons and Oddball to balance things out. The fans wanted the segment back, Olbermann listened, and Countdown will be a better show because of it.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association