Keith Olbermann Suspends ‘Worst Persons’ Segment Until Further Notice


Longtime fans of Countdown may have been disappointed to learn tonight that one of the franchise segments, “Worst Persons,” is no longer – at least for the time being. Why? Well as host Keith Olbermann explains in the segment below, its original reason for being (Tucker Carlson?) no longer seems relevant. Oh, and it’s probably more than just a coincidence that Jon Stewart held up Olbermann as an example of the divisive nature of cable news (among many others) during the Rally to Restore Sanity.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the “sanity rally” was that cable news programming, specifically those who successfully traffic in “opiniontainment” like Fox News and MSNBC, is not helping our country, but rather is hurting the public discourse, at least in the eyes of the rally’s host. This raised the ire of at least one cable news host, Keith Olbermann, who, after seeing his own heated political rhetoric amidst Fox News personalities (and others), expressed his outrage over Stewart’s apparent false equivalency between him and his political opponents.

Olbermann used that as an introduction into his explanation behind suspending the popular (and yes, hyperbolically divisive) segment:

The overall message that the tone needs to change, was not lost on any of us. The anger in this news hour was not an original part of it, nor was it an artifice we added to it. It was a response to a threat to this democracy posed by Mr. Bush and now by his lineal descendants. The anger happened, it will still happen, it is not for ratings and it is not ‘get angry first and find a reason later.’

But there is an institutionalization of it that may no longer be valid. That is the ‘Worse 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. We don’t know how that works long term. We might bring it back. We might bring back something similar to it, might kill it outright, and next week we will solicit your input.

Its just that today, given the serious stuff we have to start covering tomorrow, we think its the right thing to do short term and then we will see what happens. And we’ll also see if anyone else, on tv, or radio, will do something similar.

Olbermann has never been one to shy away from a fight, as evidence by his Saturday tweet that was critical of Jon Stewart’s media critique. This makes his suspension of “Worse Persons” all the more impressive. Media critics are certain to predictably say that Olbermann somehow caved to Stewart’s critique, but that would miss the point entirely. What Olbermann announced was remarkably sane, and regardless of where one finds him or herself on the political spectrum, he should be lauded.

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Colby Hall is the Founding Editor of He is also a Peabody Award-winning television producer of non-fiction narrative programming as well as a terrific dancer and preparer of grilled meats.