Glenn Beck

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Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Beck at the Values Voter Summit in 2011
Born Glenn Lee Beck[1][2]
(1964-02-10) February 10, 1964 (age 50)
Everett, Washington, U.S.
Residence Westlake, Texas, U.S.[3]
Nationality American
Education Sehome High School
Occupation Television host and political commentator, radio host, author, television network & film producer,[4] entrepreneur[5]
Home town Mount Vernon, Washington, U.S.
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon);[6][7][8][9] born Roman Catholic[10]
Spouse(s) Claire (1983–1994) 2 children
Tania (m. 1999) 2 children
Awards Gene Burns Memorial Award for Freedom of Speech 2013 (Talkers Magazine)[11]
Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award, 2013[12]
Marconi Award Personality of the Year 2008,[13] Defender of Israel Award, Zionist Organization of America 2011[14]
Website
Glenn Beck's Official Website

Glenn Lee Beck (born February 10, 1964) is a politically conservative American television and radio host, political commentator, author, television network producer,[5] media personality, and entrepreneur. He hosts the Glenn Beck Radio Program, a nationally syndicated talk-radio show that airs throughout the United States on Premiere Radio Networks. He formerly hosted the Glenn Beck television program, which ran from January 2006 to October 2008 on HLN and from January 2009 to June 2011 on the Fox News Channel. Beck has authored six New York Times–bestselling books.[15] Beck is the founder and CEO of Mercury Radio Arts, a multimedia production company through which he produces content for radio, television, publishing, the stage, and the Internet. It was announced on April 6, 2011, that Beck would "transition off of his daily program" on Fox News later in the year but would team with Fox to "produce a slate of projects for Fox News Channel and Fox News' digital properties".[16] Beck's last daily show on the network was June 30, 2011.[17] In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter named Beck on its Digital Power Fifty list.[18]

Beck's supporters praise him as a constitutional stalwart defending traditional American values,[19] while his critics contend he promotes conspiracy theories and employs incendiary rhetoric for ratings.[20]

Beck launched TheBlaze in 2011 after leaving Fox News. He currently has his hour long afternoon show, The Glenn Beck Program on weekdays, and his three hour morning radio show broadcast on the network.

Personal life

Early years

Glenn Lee Beck was born in Everett, Washington, the son of Mary Clara (née Janssen) and William Beck, who lived in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, at the time of their son's birth.[21][22] The family later moved to Mount Vernon, Washington,[23] where they owned and operated City Bakery in the downtown area.[24] He is descended from German immigrants who came to the United States in the 19th century.[25] Beck was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Mount Vernon.

Glenn and his older sister moved with their mother to Sumner, Washington, attending a Jesuit school[26] in Puyallup. On May 15, 1979, while out on a small boat with a male companion, Beck's mother drowned just west of Tacoma, Washington, in Puget Sound. The man who had taken her out in the boat also drowned. A Tacoma police report stated that Mary Beck "appeared to be a classic drowning victim", but a Coast Guard investigator speculated that she could have intentionally jumped overboard.[26] Beck has described his mother's death as a suicide in interviews during television and radio broadcasts.[26][27]

After their mother's death, Beck and his older sister moved to their father's home in Bellingham, Washington,[28] where Beck graduated from Sehome High School in June 1982.[29] Beck also regularly vacationed with his maternal grandparents, Ed and Clara Janssen, in Iowa.[30] In the aftermath of his mother's death and subsequent suicide of his stepbrother, Beck has said he used "Dr. Jack Daniel's" to cope. At 18, following his high school graduation, Beck relocated to Provo, Utah, and worked at radio station KAYK. Feeling he "didn't fit in", Beck left Utah after six months,[31] taking a job at Washington, D.C.'s WPGC in February 1983.[28]

Adulthood

"You've never met a more flawed guy than me."

— Glenn Beck[32]

While working at WPGC, Beck met his first wife, Claire.[33] In 1983, the couple married and had two daughters, Mary and Hannah. Mary developed cerebral palsy as a result of a series of strokes at birth in 1988.[33] The couple divorced in 1994 amid Beck's struggles with substance abuse. He was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict,[34] was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and has described himself as a "borderline schizophrenic."[35][36][37]

By 1994, Beck was suicidal, and imagined shooting himself to the music of Kurt Cobain.[36] He credits Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with helping him achieve sobriety. He said he stopped drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis in November 1994, the same month he attended his first AA meeting.[36] Beck later said that he had gotten high every day for the previous 15 years, since the age of 16.[28]

In 1996, while working for a New Haven area radio station, Beck took a theology class at Yale University, with a written recommendation from Senator Joe Lieberman, a Yale alumnus who was a fan of Beck's show at the time.[38] Beck enrolled in an "Early Christology" course, but soon withdrew, marking the extent of his post-secondary education.[36][39]

Beck then began a "spiritual quest" in which he "sought out answers in churches and bookstores".[36] As he later recounted in his books and stage performances, Beck's first attempt at self-education involved reading the work of six wide-ranging authors, constituting what Beck jokingly calls "the library of a serial killer": Alan Dershowitz, Pope John Paul II, Adolf Hitler, Billy Graham, Carl Sagan, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[38] During this time, Beck's Mormon friend and former radio partner Pat Gray argued in favor of the "comprehensive worldview" offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an offer that Beck rejected until a few years later.[36]

In 1999, Beck married his second wife, Tania.[36] After they went looking for a faith on a church tour together, they[36] joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1999, partly at the urging of his daughter Mary.[40][41] Beck was baptized by his old friend, and current-day co-worker Pat Gray.[36] Beck and his current wife Tania have had two children together, Raphe (who is adopted) and Cheyenne. Until April 2011, the couple lived in New Canaan, Connecticut, with the four children.[42][43]

Beck announced in July 2010 that he had been diagnosed with macular dystrophy, saying "A couple of weeks ago I went to the doctor because of my eyes, I can't focus my eyes. He did all kinds of tests and he said, 'you have macular dystrophy ... you could go blind in the next year. Or, you might not.'" The disorder can make it difficult to read, drive or recognize faces.[44]

In July 2011, Beck leased a house in the Fort Worth suburb of Westlake, Texas.[3] In 2012, he moved his main TV and radio studios to Dallas, Texas.[45]

Career

"Glenn Beck has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth."

Forbes magazine, April 2010[15][46]

In 2002 Beck created the media platform Mercury Radio Arts[38][47] as the umbrella over various broadcast, publishing, Internet, and live show entities.

Radio

In 1983 he moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, to work at radio station KZFM.[33] In mid-1985, Beck was hired away from KZFM to be the lead DJ for the morning-drive radio broadcast by WRKA in Louisville, Kentucky.[33] His four-hour weekday show was called Captain Beck and the A-Team.[48] Beck had a reputation as a "young up-and-comer". The show was not political and included the usual off-color antics of the genre: juvenile jokes, pranks, and impersonations.[38] The show slipped to third in the market and Beck left abruptly in 1987 amid a dispute with WRKA management.[citation needed]

Months later, Beck was hired by Phoenix Top-40 station KOY-FM, then known as Y-95. Beck was partnered with Arizona native Tim Hattrick to co-host a local "morning zoo" program.[36] During his time at Y-95, Beck cultivated a rivalry with local pop radio station KZZP and that station's morning host Bruce Kelly. Through practical jokes and publicity stunts, Beck drew criticism from the staff at Y-95 when the rivalry culminated in Beck telephoning Kelly's wife on-the-air, mocking her recent miscarriage.[33] In 1989, Beck resigned from Y-95 to accept a job in Houston at KRBE, known as Power 104. Beck was subsequently fired in 1990 due to poor ratings.[33]

Beck then moved on to Baltimore, Maryland, and the city's leading Top-40 station, WBSB, known as B104. There, he partnered with Pat Gray, a morning DJ. During his tenure at B104, Beck was arrested and jailed for speeding in his DeLorean.[36] According to a former associate, Beck was "completely out of it" when a station manager went to bail him out.[36] When Gray, then Beck were fired, the two men spent six months in Baltimore, planning their next move. In early 1992, Beck and Gray both moved to WKCI-FM (KC101), a Top-40 radio station in New Haven, Connecticut.[36] In 1995, WKCI apologized after Beck and Gray mocked a Chinese-American caller on air who felt offended by a comedy segment by playing a gong sound effect and having executive producer Alf Gagineau mock a Chinese accent. That incident led to protests by activist groups.[49] When Gray left the show to move to Salt Lake City, Beck continued with co-host Vinnie Penn. At the end of 1998, Beck was informed that his contract would not be renewed at the end of 1999.[36]

The Glenn Beck Program first aired in 2000 on WFLA (AM) in Tampa, and took their afternoon time slot from eighteenth to first place within a year.[50][51] In January 2002, Premiere Radio Networks launched the show nationwide on 47 stations. The show then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, broadcasting from new flagship station WPHT. On November 5, 2007, The New York Times reported that Premiere Radio Networks was extending Beck's contract. By May 2008, it had reached over 280 terrestrial stations as well as XM Satellite. It was ranked 4th in the nation with over six and a half million listeners.[52] As of July 2013, Glenn Beck was tied for number four in the ratings behind Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Dave Ramsey.[53]

Television

In January 2006, CNN's Headline News announced that Beck would host a nightly news-commentary show in their new prime-time block Headline Prime. The show, simply called Glenn Beck, aired weeknights. CNN Headline News described the show as "an unconventional look at the news of the day featuring his often amusing perspective".[54] At the end of his tenure at CNN-HLN, Beck had the second largest audience behind Nancy Grace.[55] In 2008, Beck won the Marconi Radio Award for Network Syndicated Personality of the Year.[13]

In October 2008, it was announced that Beck would join the Fox News Channel, leaving CNN Headline News.[56] After moving to the Fox News Channel, Beck hosted Glenn Beck, beginning in January 2009, as well as a weekend version.[57] One of his first guests was Alaska Governor Sarah Palin[58] He also has a regular segment every Friday on the Fox News Channel program The O'Reilly Factor titled "At Your Beck and Call".[59] As of September 2009 Beck's program drew more viewers than all three of the competing time-slot shows combined on CNN, MSNBC and HLN.[60][61]

His show's high ratings did not come without controversy.[56] The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported that Beck's use of "distorted or inflammatory rhetoric" had complicated the channel's and their journalists' efforts to neutralize White House criticism that Fox is not really a news organization.[56] Television analyst Andrew Tyndall echoed these sentiments, saying that Beck's incendiary style had created "a real crossroads for Fox News", stating "they're right on the cusp of losing their image as a news organization."[56]

In April 2011, Fox News and Mercury Radio Arts, Beck's production company, announced that Beck would "transition off of his daily program" on Fox News in 2011.[62] His last day at Fox was later announced as June 30.[63][64] FNC and Beck announced that he would be teaming with Fox to produce a slate of projects for Fox News and its digital properties.[16] Fox News head Roger Ailes later referenced Beck's entrepreneurialism and political movement activism, saying, "His [Beck's] goals were different from our goals ... I need people focused on a daily television show."[65] Beck hosted his last daily show on Fox on June 30, 2011, where he recounted the accomplishments of the show and said, "This show has become a movement. It's not a TV show, and that's why it doesn't belong on television anymore. It belongs in your homes. It belongs in your neighborhoods."[17] In response to critics who said he was fired, Beck pointed out that his final show was airing live.[17] Immediately after the show he did an interview on his new GBTV internet television channel.[17]

TheBlaze TV (formerly GBTV)

Main article: TheBlaze TV

Glenn Beck's Fox News one-hour show ended June 30, 2011,[66] and a new two-hour show began his television network which started as a subscription-based internet TV network, TheBlaze TV, originally called GBTV, on September 12, 2011.[67][68] Using a subscription model, it was estimated Beck is on track to generate $27 million in his first year of operation.[69] This was later upgraded to $40 million by The Wall Street Journal when subscriptions topped 300,000.[70] On September 12, 2012, TheBlaze TV announced that the Dish Network would begin carrying TheBlaze TV.[5][71]

Books

"You cannot take away freedom to protect it, you cannot destroy the free market to save it, and you cannot uphold freedom of speech by silencing those with whom you disagree. To take rights away to defend them or to spend your way out of debt defies common sense."

– Glenn Beck, Common Sense, 2009[72]

Beck has reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List in four separate categories as of 2010: Hardcover Non-Fiction,[73][74] Paperback Non-Fiction,[73] Hardcover Fiction,[75] and Children's Picture Books.[76]

Non-fiction
Fiction
Children's

Beck authorized a comic book:

Stage shows and speeches

"When Beck meets his fans, he does so with the gusto of a public figure engaging his constituents. People he meets often give him presents and notes. He signs autographs, poses for photos. He has perfected the Everyman shtick that presidential candidates spend years trying to master in places like Iowa."

The New York Times Magazine, 2010[38]

Since 2005, Beck has toured American cities twice a year, presenting a one-man stage show. His stage productions are a mix of stand-up comedy and inspirational speaking. In a critique of his live act, Salon Magazine's Steve Almond describes Beck as a "wildly imaginative performer, a man who weds the operatic impulses of the demagogue to the grim mutterings of the conspiracy theorist".[83] A show from the Beck `08 Unelectable Tour was shown in around 350 movie theaters around the country.[84]

In Beck's hometown of Mt. Vernon, Washington, supporters and detractors hold handmade signs on the day Beck was honored by the mayor.

The finale of 2009's Common Sense Comedy Tour was simulcast in over 440 theaters.[85] The events have drawn 200,000 fans in recent years.[86]

In March 2003, Beck ran a series of rallies, which he called Glenn Beck's Rally for America, in support of troops deployed for the upcoming Iraq War. On July 4, 2007, Beck served as host of the 2007 Toyota Tundra "Stadium of Fire" in Provo, Utah. The annual event at LaVell Edwards Stadium on the Brigham Young University campus is presented by America's Freedom Foundation.[87] In May 2008, Beck gave the keynote speech at the NRA convention in Louisville, Kentucky.[88]

In late August 2009, the mayor of Beck's hometown, Mount Vernon, Washington, announced that he would award Beck the Key to the City, designating September 26, 2009, as "Glenn Beck Day". Due to local opposition, the city council voted unanimously to disassociate itself from the award.[89] The key presentation ceremony sold-out the 850 seat McIntyre Hall and an estimated 800 detractors and supporters demonstrated outside the building. Earlier that day, approximately 7,000 people attended the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's "Take the Field with Glenn Beck" at Seattle's Safeco Field.[90]

In December 2009, Beck produced a one-night special film titled "The Christmas Sweater: A Return to Redemption".[91] In January and February 2010, Beck teamed with fellow Fox News host Bill O'Reilly to tour several cities in a live stage show called "The Bold and Fresh Tour 2010". The January 29 show was recorded and broadcast to movie theaters throughout the country.[92]

Philanthropy

In 2011, Beck founded the non-profit organization Mercury One, designed to sustain itself through its entrepreneurship and without grants or donations.[93] In early 2011, Beck began work toward developing a clothing line to be sold to benefit the charity and October 2011, Mercury One began selling the upscale clothing line labeled 1791 exclusively at its website, 1791.com. The clothing in the line's eleven-piece inaugural offering was manufactured by American Mojo of Lowell, Massachusetts.[94]

Projects and rallies

9–12 Project and Tea Party protests

Main article: 9-12 Project

In March 2009 Beck put together a campaign, the 9-12 Project, that is named for nine principles and twelve values that he says embody the spirit of the American people on the day after the September 11 attacks.[95] The Colorado 9–12 Project hosted a "Patriot Camp" for kids in grades 1–5, featuring programs on "our Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and the values and principles that are the cornerstones of our nation".

Restoring Honor rally

Main article: Restoring Honor rally

The Restoring Honor rally was promoted by Beck and held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 2010. The rally – which purported to embrace religious faith and patriotism – was co-sponsored by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, promoted by FreedomWorks, and supported by the Tea Party movement.[96]

America's First Christmas

In December 2010, Beck went to Wilmington, Ohio, a town devastated by the late-2000s recession, to host live events to encourage his fans to go to the town to boost the local economy in a project called "America's First Christmas".[97] He hosted an event and his radio and television shows from the local theater.[98]

2011 international tour

Beck headlined his "Restoring Courage" events in Jerusalem, Israel, in August 2011 in a campaign Beck said was designed to encourage people worldwide "to stand with the Jewish people".[99][100] After Jerusalem, Beck visited Cape Town, South Africa, and was scheduled to visit Venezuela.[101]

2012 presidential campaign

Actively supporting Mitt Romney as "perhaps the best-known Mormon after the Republican presidential candidate and a major influence on evangelical Christians, ... Beck has emerged as an unlikely theological bridge between the first Mormon presidential nominee and a critical electorate [evangelicals]", according to a pre-election article in the New York Times. Along with personal campaign appearances in Ohio and Iowa, Beck unusually directly addressed doctrinal issues between Mormons and evangelical Christians—wherein the latter often consider the former a "cult" rather than Christian—on his radio show in September 2012. During the one-hour show in early September, he asked his audience, “Does Mitt Romney’s Mormonism make him too scary or weird to be elected president of the United States?” The article concluded by addressing the "fear of making Mormonism mainstream" as a reason Beck could be acceptable to evangelicals and Romney not be, quoting John C. Green, the author of The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections:

“There’s a difference between a public figure like Glenn Beck and someone who could be the president of the United States. ... Many evangelicals believe this country was founded by Christian leaders. It’s important that the person in the White House be positive about Christianity, if not a devout Christian himself.”[10]

Political views

Beck has described himself as a conservative with libertarian leanings.[102] Among his core values Beck lists personal responsibility, private charity, the right to life, freedom of religion, limited government, and family as the cornerstone of society.[103] Beck believes in low national debt, and has said "A conservative believes that debt creates unhealthy relationships. Everyone, from the government on down, should live within their means and strive for financial independence."[104] He supports individual gun ownership rights and is against gun control legislation.[105]

In an O'Reilly Factor interview in August 2010, when Beck was asked if he "believe(s) that gay marriage is a threat to [this] country in any way", he stated, "No I don't…I believe that Thomas Jefferson said: 'If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?'"[106]

Beck believes that there is a lack of evidence that human activity is the main cause of global warming.[107] He also views the American Clean Energy and Security Act as a form of wealth redistribution, and has promoted a petition rejecting the Kyoto Protocol.[108]

Long socially moderate / classically libertarian with concern LGBT rights, in 2013, Beck supported legalization of gay marriage in the U.S., on the basis that "The question is not whether gay people should be married or not, the question is why is the government involved in our marriage?,"[109][110] and criticized Russian anti-gay laws as hetero-fascism.[111][112]

Although opposed to illegal immigration, Glenn Beck announced in June and July 2014 that his foundation, Mercury One, would be making efforts to provide food and relief to the large numbers of migrant children.[113][114][115][116] His move was praised by supporters of immigrant rights and freer migration but met with considerable pushback from his supporter base.[117][118][119][120][121]

Opposition to progressivism

"What's the difference between a communist or socialist and a progressive? Revolution or evolution? One requires a gun and the other eats away slowly."

– Glenn Beck, keynote address at the February 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference[122][123]
Glenn Beck's progressive "Tree of Revolution" chalk board, from the September 18, 2009, episode of his television show. The "roots" of the tree (from L to R) are made up Che Guevara, Woodrow Wilson, and Saul Alinsky, while the "trunk" is the Students for a Democratic Society and Cloward–Piven strategy. Comprising the "money leaves" of the tree (from L to R) are Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Wade Rathke, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Dale Rathke, President Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, Valerie Jarrett, Apollo Alliance, Van Jones, Leo Gerard, Carl Pope, Ruben Aronin, and Jeff Jones.[124]

During his 2010 keynote speech to Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Beck wrote the word "progressivism" on a chalkboard and declared, "This is the disease. This is the disease in America", adding "progressivism is the cancer in America and it is eating our Constitution!"[122][123] According to Beck, the progressive ideas of men such as John Dewey, Herbert Croly, and Walter Lippmann, influenced the Presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson; eventually becoming the foundation for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.[122] Beck has said that such progressivism infects both main political parties and threatens to "destroy America as it was originally conceived".[122] In Beck's book Common Sense, he argues that "progressivism has less to do with the parties and more to do with individuals who seek to redefine, reshape, and rebuild America into a country where individual liberties and personal property mean nothing if they conflict with the plans and goals of the State."[122]

A collection of progressives, whom Beck has referred to as "Crime Inc.", comprise what Beck contends is a clandestine conspiracy to take over and transform the United States.[125][126][127] Some of these individuals include Cass Sunstein, Van Jones, Andy Stern, John Podesta, Wade Rathke, Joel Rogers and Francis Fox Piven.[125][128] Other figures tied to Beck's "Crime Inc." accusation include Al Gore, Franklin Raines,[129] Maurice Strong, George Soros,[130] John Holdren and President Barack Obama.[126] According to Beck, these individuals already have or are surreptitiously working in unison with an array of organizations and corporations such as Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae, ACORN, Apollo Alliance, Tides Center, Chicago Climate Exchange, Generation Investment Management, Enterprise Community Partners, Petrobras, Center for American Progress, and the SEIU; to fulfill their progressive agenda.[126][130] In his quest to root out these "progressives", Beck has compared himself to Israeli Nazi hunters, vowing on his radio show that "to the day I die I am going to be a progressive-hunter. I'm going to find these people that have done this to our country and expose them. I don't care if they're in nursing homes."[38] Beck compared Al Gore to the Nazis while equating the campaign against global warming to the Nazi campaign against the Jews.[131]

Progressive historian Sean Wilentz has denounced what he describes as Beck's progressive-themed conspiracy theories and "gross historical inaccuracies", countering that Beck is merely echoing the decades-old "right-wing extremism" of the John Birch Society.[132] According to Wilentz, Beck's "version of history" places him in a long line of figures who have challenged mainstream political historians and presented an inaccurate opposing view as the truth, stating:

Glenn Beck is trying to give viewers a version of American history that is supposedly hidden. Supposedly, all we historians – left, right and center – have been doing for the past 100 years is to keep true American history from you. And that true American history is what Glenn Beck is teaching. It's a version of history that is beyond skewed. But of course, that's what Beck expects us to say. He lives in a kind of Alice in Wonderland world, where if people who actually know the history say what he's teaching is junk, he says, 'That's because you're trying to hide the truth.'[132]

Conservative David Frum, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, has also alleged Beck's propensity for negationism, remarking that "Beck offers a story about the American past for people who are feeling right now very angry and alienated. It is different enough from the usual story in that he makes them feel like they've got access to secret knowledge."[38]

Influences

Political and historical

"The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called the paranoid style – the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country – is aflame again, fanned from both right and left ... No one has a better feeling for this mood, and no one exploits it as well, as Beck. He is the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right."

David Von Drehle, Time Magazine, 2009[86]

An author with ideological influence on Beck is W. Cleon Skousen (1913–2006), a prolific conservative political writer, American constitutionalist and faith-based political theorist.[133][134] As an anti-communist supporter of the John Birch Society,[135] and limited-government activist,[136] Skousen, who was Mormon, wrote on a wide range of subjects: the Six-Day War, Mormon eschatology, New World Order conspiracies, even parenting.[136] Skousen believed that American political, social, and economic elites were working with communists to foist a world government on the United States.[122] Beck praised Skousen's "words of wisdom" as "divinely inspired", referencing Skousen's The Naked Communist[137] and especially The 5,000 Year Leap (originally published in 1981),[136] which Beck said in 2007 had "changed his life".[136] According to Skousen's nephew, Mark Skousen, Leap reflects Skousen's "passion for the United States Constitution", which he "felt was inspired by God and the reason behind America's success as a nation".[138] The book is recommended by Beck as "required reading" to understand the current American political landscape and become a "September twelfth person".[136] Beck authored a foreword for the 2008 edition of Leap and Beck's on-air recommendations in 2009 propelled the book to number one in the government category on Amazon for several months.[136] In 2010, Matthew Continetti of the conservative Weekly Standard criticized Beck's conspiratorial bent, terming him "a Skousenite".[122] Additionally, Alexander Zaitchik, author of the 2010 book Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance, which features an entire chapter on "The Ghost of Cleon Skousen",[139] refers to Skousen as "Beck's favorite author and biggest influence", while noting that he authored four of the 10 books on Beck's 9-12 Project required-reading list.[140]

In his discussion of Beck and Skousen, Continetti said that one of Skousen's works "draws on Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope (1966), which argues that the history of the 20th century is the product of secret societies in conflict",[122] noting that in Beck's novel The Overton Window, which Beck describes as "faction" (fiction based on fact), one of his characters states "Carroll Quigley laid open the plan in Tragedy and Hope, the only hope to avoid the tragedy of war was to bind together the economies of the world to foster global stability and peace."[122]

Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz says that alongside Skousen, Robert W. Welch, Jr., founder of the John Birch Society, is a key ideological foundation of Beck's worldview.[141] According to Wilentz: "[Beck] has brought neo-Birchite ideas to an audience beyond any that Welch or Skousen might have dreamed of."[141]

Other books that Beck regularly cites on his programs are Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man, Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen's A Patriot's History of the United States, and Burton W. Folsom, Jr.'s New Deal or Raw Deal.[122] Beck has also urged his listeners to read The Coming Insurrection, a book by a French Marxist group[122] discussing what they see as the imminent collapse of capitalist culture,[142] and The Creature from Jekyll Island, which argues that aspects of the U.S. Federal Reserve system assault economic civil liberties, by G. Edward Griffin.[143]

On June 4, 2010, Beck endorsed Elizabeth Dilling's 1936 work The Red Network: A Who's Who and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots, remarking "this is a book, The Red Network, this came in from 1936. People – [Joseph] McCarthy was absolutely right ... This is, who were the communists in America."[144] Beck was criticized by an array of people, including Menachem Z. Rosensaft and Joe Conason, who stated that Dilling was an outspoken anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer.[145][146][147]

Religious

Beck during his religiously-themed speech at the Restoring Honor rally on August 28, 2010.

Beck has credited God for saving him from drug and alcohol abuse, professional obscurity, and friendlessness.[148] In 2006, Beck performed a short inspirational monologue in Salt Lake City, Utah,[149] detailing how he was transformed by the "healing power of Jesus Christ", which was released as a CD two years later by Deseret Book, a publishing company owned by the LDS Church, entitled An Unlikely Mormon: The Conversion Story of Glenn Beck.[150]

Writer Joanna Brooks contends that Beck developed his "amalgation of anti-communism" and "connect-the-dots conspiracy theorizing" only after his entry into the "deeply insular world of Mormon thought and culture".[133] Brooks theorizes that Beck's calls to fasting and prayer are rooted in Mormon collective fasts to address spiritual challenges, while Beck's "overt sentimentality" and penchant for weeping represent the hallmark of a "distinctly Mormon mode of masculinity" where "appropriately-timed displays of tender emotion are displays of power" and spirituality.[133] Philip Barlow, the Arrington chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, has said that Beck's belief that the U.S. Constitution was an "inspired document", his calls for limited government and for not exiling God from the public sphere, "have considerable sympathy in Mormonism".[151] Beck has acknowledged that the Mormon "doctrine is different" from traditional Christianity, but said that this was what attracted him to it, stating that "for me some of the things in traditional doctrine just doesn't work."[152]

Public reception

"To his admirers, Glenn Beck has been a voice crying in the wilderness, a prophet who warns us that we have been wandering in darkness too long. To detractors, he is a clown and a buffoon, at best, a dangerous demagogue, at worst."

—  Lee Harris, The Weekly Standard, 2010[153]

In 2009, Beck's show was one of the highest rated news commentary programs on cable TV.[154][155][156][157] For a Barbara Walters ABC special, Beck was selected as one of America's "Top 10 Most Fascinating People" of 2009.[158] In 2010, Beck was selected for Time's top 100 most influential people under the "Leaders" category.[159]

Beck has referred to himself as an entertainer,[160] a commentator rather than a reporter,[161] and a "rodeo clown".[160] He has said that he identifies with Howard Beale, a character portrayed by Peter Finch in the film Network: "When he came out of the rain and he was like, none of this makes any sense. I am that guy."[162]

Beck at the Time 100 Gala, 2010

Time magazine described Beck as "the new populist superstar of Fox News" saying it is easier to see a set of attitudes rather than a specific ideology, noting his criticism of Wall Street, yet defending bonuses to AIG, as well as denouncing conspiracy theories about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) but warning against indoctrination of children by the AmeriCorps program.[163] (Paul Krugman[164] and Mark Potok,[165] on the other hand, have been among those asserting that Beck helps spread "hate" by covering issues that stir up extremists.) What seems to unite Beck's disparate themes, Time argued, is a sense of siege.[163] An earlier cover story in Time described Beck as "a gifted storyteller with a knack for stitching seemingly unrelated data points into possible conspiracies", proclaiming that he has "emerged as a virtuoso on the strings" of conservative discontent by mining "the timeless theme of the corrupt Them thwarting a virtuous Us".[86]

Beck's shows have been described as a "mix of moral lessons, outrage and an apocalyptic view of the future ... capturing the feelings of an alienated class of Americans".[160] One of Beck's Fox News Channel colleagues Shepard Smith, has jokingly called Beck's studio the "fear chamber", with Beck countering that he preferred the term "doom room".[86]

Republican South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham criticized Beck as a "cynic" whose show was antithetical to "American values" at The Atlantic's 2009 First Draft of History conference, remarking "Only in America can you make that much money crying."[166] The progressive watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's (FAIR) Activism Director, Peter Hart, argues that Beck red-baits political adversaries and promotes a paranoid view of progressive politics.[167] Howard Kurtz, of the Washington Post, has remarked that "Love him or hate him, Beck is a talented, often funny broadcaster, a recovering alcoholic with an unabashedly emotional style."[56]

Beck was honored by Liberty University during their 2010 Commencement exercises with an honorary Doctoral Degree. During his keynote address to the students, he stated "As a man who was never able to go to college – I'm the first in my family that went; I went for one semester; I couldn't afford more than that – I am humbly honored."[168] In June 2011, Beck announced he was to be the honored with the Zionist Organization of America's 2011 Defender of Israel Award.[169]

Laura Miller writes in Salon.com that Beck is a contemporary example of "the paranoid style in American politics" described by historian Richard Hofstader:

"The Paranoid Style in American Politics" reads like a playbook for the career of Glenn Beck, right down to the paranoid's "quality of pedantry" and "heroic strivings for 'evidence'", embodied in Beck's chalkboard and piles of books. But Beck lacks an archenemy commensurate with his stratospheric ambitions, which makes him appear even more absurd to outsiders.[170]

Beck has acknowledged accusations of being a conspiracy theorist, stating on his show that there is a "concentrated effort now to label me a conspiracy theorist".[171]

Particularly as a consequence of Beck's Restoring Honor rally in 2010, the fact that Beck is Mormon caused concern amongst some politically sympathetic Christian Evangelicals on theological grounds.[172][173][174][175] Tom Tradup, vice president at Salem Radio Network, which serves more than 2,000 Christian-themed stations, expressed this sentiment after the rally, stating "Politically, everyone is with it, but theologically, when he says the country should turn back to God, the question is: Which God?"[148] Subsequently, a September 2010 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Religion News Service (RNS) found that of those Americans who hold a favorable opinion of Beck, only 45% believe he is the right person to lead a religious movement, with that number further declining to 37% when people are informed he is Mormon.[176][177] Daniel Cox, Director of Research for PRRI, summed up this position by stating:

The disparity between Glenn Beck's favorability ratings and how people feel about him as a religious leader suggests that people are more drawn to him for political reasons than religious ones. Many of Beck's strongest supporters, such as Republicans and white Evangelicals, perceive real differences between their own faith and Beck's Mormon faith, and this may become a liability in his efforts to lead as a religious figure.[176]

Pete Peterson of Pepperdine's Davenport Institute said that Beck's speech at the rally belonged to an American tradition of calls to personal renewal. Peterson wrote: "A Mormon surrounded onstage by priests, pastors, rabbis, and imams, Beck [gave] one of the more ecumenical jeremiads in history."[178] Evangelical pastor Tony Campolo said in 2010 that conservative evangelicals respond to Beck's framing of conservative economic principles, saying that Beck's and ideological fellow travelers' "marriage between evangelicalism and patriotic nationalism is so strong that anybody who is raising questions about loyalty to the old, lassez-faire capitalist system is ex post facto unpatriotic, un-American, and by association non-Christian.” Newsweek religion reporter Lisa Miller, after quoting Campolo, opined, "It's ironic that Beck, a Mormon, would gain acceptance as a leader of a new Christian coalition. ... Beck's gift ... is to articulate God's special plan for America in such broad strokes that they trample no single creed or doctrine while they move millions with their message."[179]

Critical biographies

In June 2010, investigative reporter Alexander Zaitchik released a critical biography titled Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance, with a title mocking Beck's work, Common Sense.[180] In an interview about the book, Zaitchik theorized, "Beck's politics and his insatiable hunger for money and fame are not mutually exclusive", while stating: "Beck's true religion is not Patriotism, Mormonism, or Conservatism. His true religion is cross-platform self-marketing ... According to Beck's worldview, there's no inherent contradiction between his sophisticated instinct for self-promotion, his propagandist rodeo clown act, his self-image as a media mogul, and his professed belief system. I think he actually believes that God wants him to make a ton of money and become this huge celebrity by fear mongering and generally doing whatever it takes in the media to promote right-wing causes."[181]

In September 2010, Philadelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch released The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama.[182] One of Bunch's theses is that Beck is nothing more than a morning zoo deejay playing a fictional character as a money-making stunt.[182] Writer Bob Cesca, in a review of Bunch's book, compares Beck to Steve Martin's faith-healer character in the 1992 film Leap of Faith, before describing the "derivative grab bag of other tried and tested personalities" that Bunch contends comprises Beck's persona:

His (Beck's) adenoidal 'Clydie Clyde' voice is based on morning zoo pioneer Scott Shannon's "Mr. Leonard" character. His history is borrowed from the widely debunked work of W. Cleon Skousen. His conspiracy theories are horked from Alex Jones and maybe Jack Van Impe. His anti-Obama, anti-socialist monologues are pure Joe McCarthy. His chalkboard is stolen from televangelist Gene Scott. His solemn, over-processed radio monologue delivery is a dead ringer for Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio. This is all well-worn stuff, but no one has drawn it all together and sculpted it for the purpose of conning an especially susceptible audience during turbulent racial and economic times.[182]

In October 2010 a polemical biography by Dana Milbank was released: Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America.[183]

Satire, spoof and parody

Beck has been the subject of mockery and ridicule by a number of humorists. In response to Beck's animated delivery and views, he was parodied in an impersonation by Jason Sudeikis on Saturday Night Live.[184] The Daily Show's Jon Stewart has spoofed Beck's 9–12 project with his own "11-3 project", consisting of "11 principles and 3 herbs and spices",[185] impersonated Beck's chalk board-related presentation style for an entire show,[186] and quipped about Beck "finally, a guy who says what people who aren't thinking are thinking".[187] Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report satirized Beck's "war room" by creating his own "doom bunker".[188] Through the character Eric Cartman, South Park parodied Beck's television program and his commentary style in the episode "Dances with Smurfs".[189] The Onion, a satirical periodical and faux news site, ran an Onion News Network video "special report" where it lamented that the "victim in a fatal car accident was tragically not Glenn Beck".[190] Meanwhile, the Current TV cartoon SuperNews! ran an animated cartoon feature titled "The Glenn Beck Apocalypse", where Beck is confronted by Jesus Christ who rebukes him as the equivalent of "Sarah Palin farting into a balloon".[191] Political comedian and satirist Bill Maher has mocked Beck's followers as an "army of diabetic mallwalkers",[192] while The Buffalo Beast, named Beck the most loathsome person in America in 2010, declaring "It's like someone found a manic, doom-prophesying hobo in a sandwich board, shaved him, shot him full of Zoloft and gave him a show."[38] The October 31 Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, hosted by Comedy Central personalities Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, was conceived as a parody of Beck's earlier Rally to Restore Honor,[193] even though Stewart and Colbert said that they came up with the idea of holding a rally in March[194] and Stewart had put down the deposit for the National Mall before Beck announced his rally.[195]

Public disputes

Obama

Several incidents involving Beck and President Barack Obama have resulted in notable public controversy. In response to Obama's remarks on the Henry Louis Gates controversy, Beck argued that Obama has repeatedly shown "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture", saying "I'm not saying he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist."[196] These remarks drew criticism, and resulted in a boycott promulgated by Color of Change.[197] In 2009, the boycott resulted in at least 57 advertisers requesting their ads be removed from his programming, to avoid associating their brands with content that could be considered offensive by potential customers.[198][199][200] He later apologized for the remarks, telling Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace that he has a "big fat mouth" and miscast as racism what is actually, as he theorizes, Obama's belief in black liberation theology.[201] In November 2012, Beck attempted to auction a mason jar holding an Obama figurine described as being submerged in urine (in fact, submerged in beer). Bidding reached $11,000. before eBay finally decided to remove the auction and cancel all bids.[202][203]

Van Jones

In July 2009, Beck began to focus what would become many episodes on his TV and radio shows on Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs at Obama's White House Council on Environmental Quality. Beck called Jones, "an avowed, self-avowed, radical revolutionary communist." In rating Beck's claim as "Mostly False," PolitiFact said "Beck would have been on solid ground if he said Jones used to be a communist. Jones has been up front about that".[204]

Beck also criticized Jones for his involvement in STORM, a Bay Area radical group with Marxist roots,[205] and his support for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who had been convicted of killing a police officer. Beck spotlighted video of Jones referring to Republicans as "assholes", and a petition Jones signed suggesting that George W. Bush knowingly let the 9/11 attacks happen. Time magazine credited Beck with leading conservatives' attack on Jones.[86]

In a move attributed by The New York Times as a response to the controversies by the White House, which had not seen Jones's position as senior enough to warrant a full vetting, and Jones decision that "the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual," Jones resigned his position in September 2009.[206] Jones characterized the attacks from his opponents as a "vicious smear campaign" and an effort to use "lies and distortions to distract and divide".[205]

ACORN

In 2009, Beck and other conservative commentators were critical of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for various reasons, including claims of voter registration fraud in the 2008 presidential election.[207] In September 2009, he broadcast a series of alleged undercover videos by conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, which portrayed ACORN community organizers offering inappropriate tax and other advice to people who had said they wanted to import "very young" girls from El Salvador to work as child prostitutes.[208][209] Following the videos' release, the U.S. Census Bureau severed ties with the group while the U.S. House and Senate voted to cut all of its federal funding.[86]

On December 7, 2009, the former Massachusetts Attorney General, after an independent internal investigation of ACORN, found the videos that had been released appeared to have been edited, "in some cases substantially". He found no evidence of criminal conduct by ACORN employees, but concluded that ACORN had poor management practices that contributed to unprofessional actions by a number of its low-level employees.[210][211][212][213] On March 1, 2010, the District Attorney's office for Brooklyn determined that the videos were "heavily edited"[214] and concluded that there was no criminal wrongdoing by the ACORN staff in the videos from the Brooklyn ACORN office.[215][216] On April 1, 2010, an investigation by the California Attorney General found the videos from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino to be "heavily edited,"[217] and the investigation did not find evidence of criminal conduct on the part of ACORN employees.[217][218] On June 14, 2010, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its findings, which showed that ACORN evidenced no sign that it, or any of its related organizations, mishandled any federal money they had received.[219][220] In March 2010, ACORN announced it would be closing its offices and disbanding due to loss of funding from government and private donors.[221]

Satire website

In 2009, lawyers for Beck brought a case (Beck v. Eiland-Hall) against the owner of a satirical website named GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The claim that the domain name of the website is itself defamatory was described as a first in cyberlaw.[222] Beck's lawyers argued that the site infringed on his trademarked name and that the domain name should be turned over to Beck.[223] The WIPO ruled against Beck, but Eiland-Hall voluntarily transferred the domain to Beck anyway, saying that the First Amendment had been upheld and that he no longer had a use for the domain name.[224]

Jewish Funds for Justice

In January 2011, in protest against what they saw as inappropriate references to the Holocaust and to Nazis by Beck (and by Roger Ailes of Fox News), four hundred rabbis signed an open letter published as a paid advertisement in The Wall Street Journal. The ad was paid for by Jewish Funds for Justice (JFFJ), which had previously called for Beck's firing. The JFFJ have claimed on their website that Beck seems "to draw his material straight from the anti-Semitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion".[225] The letter states that Beck and Fox had "...diminish[ed] the memory and meaning of the Holocaust when you use it to discredit any individual or organization you disagree with. That is what Fox News has done in recent weeks." In response, a Fox News executive said to Reuters that the letter was from a "George Soros-backed leftwing political organization".[226][227]

Reform Judaism

On February 22, 2011, during a discussion on his radio show about the controversy surrounding his earlier comments about Soros, Beck said "Reform Rabbis are generally political in nature. It's almost like radicalized Islam in a way where it's less about religion than it is about politics." He was quickly criticized by other conservatives, rabbis, and others. The Anti-Defamation League labeled Beck's remarks as "bigoted ignorance". On February 24, Beck apologized on air, agreeing that his comments were "ignorant".[228][229]

2011 Norway attacks

In the wake of the 2011 Norway attacks, Beck received condemnation for his comparison of murdered and surviving members of the Norwegian Workers' Youth League to the Hitler Youth. He said, "There was a shooting at a political camp which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth or whatever, you know what I mean. Who does a camp for kids that's all about politics? Disturbing."[230] The statement was ill-received in Norway, prompting political commentator and Labour party member Frank Aarebrot to label Beck as a "vulgar propagandist", a "swine" and a "fascist",[231] and Torbjørn Eriksen, former press secretary to Norway's prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, to describe Beck's comment as "a new low", adding that "Glenn Beck's comments are ignorant, incorrect and extremely hurtful".[232] Commentators pointed out that groups affiliated with the Tea Party movement and the Beck-founded 9–12 Project also sponsor politically oriented camp programs for children.[231][232][233][234][235] Beck condemned the massacre.[236]

See also

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