Glenn Beck presents himself as an island of common sense in an increasingly senseless world. He says that he works hard to bring his audience an accurate portrayal of our country and its political realities. He claims to be someone who cares deeply about accuracy and facts. "I want to be wrong," he often says, brandishing a red phone (for corrections from the White House, should they arise) and lamenting that his grim views of Obama's initiatives are all too right
For this reason, it is important to consistently point out the relentless regularity with which Beck misleads his audience and engages in abject hypocrisy
On March 30, Greenpeace released a new study documenting how much money foundations operated by fossil-fuel magnates David and Charles Koch have spent to support think tanks and "research" designed to cast doubt on human-made climate change -- specifically, $48.5 million between 1997 and 2008. In recent years, that spending has accelerated, with $24.9 million distributed from 2005 to 2008. By comparison, the report points out that ExxonMobil spent a mere $24 million from 1997 to 2008 in its effort to sow public skepticism and undercut new environmental regulations
As Media Matters has detailed, for years the Koch brothers have been among the most prolific and deep-pocketed funders of the conservative movement. They sit at the top of the largest privately-owned energy company in the nation, Koch Industries, which makes its billions from oil and natural gas
But Beck's viewers have never heard the word "Koch" mentioned on his Fox show -- not once since it began on January 19, 2009. During that same time period, the phrase "special interests" -- a favorite target for Beck during monologues deploring how average Americans are being shut out of the political process -- was mentioned 121 times.
On six shows since his Fox debut, Beck has hosted Phil Kerpen, Policy Director for Americans for Prosperity. During his appearances, Kerpen has attacked everything from net neutrality to investment in renewable energy (he said the House-passed energy bill was a "watermelon bill," "green on the outside" and "deep communist red" on the inside). At no point did Beck ever mention that between 2005 and 2008, Americans for Prosperity received more than $5.1 million (by Greenpeace's count) from Koch-controlled foundations. In other words, Kerpen speaks for a group funded substantially by a massive oil and gas company working to prevent climate change legislation from passing. And yet, Beck repeatedly held him up as an objective commentator and analyst on, among other things, energy issues.
So, why didn't Beck ever mention Koch? Two possible explanations for such an obvious omission present themselves. First, we could easily conclude that Beck is knowingly doing the bidding of the right's largest corporate backers, all while presenting himself as a populist champion. This would make him the worst kind of hypocrite, one who is willing to unapologetically abuse the trust and faith of his followers in order to secure fame and fortune for himself.
On the other hand, it is conceivable that Beck simply doesn't see Koch as a special interest. In What's the Matter with Kansas?, journalist Thomas Frank illustrates one of the right's greatest intellectual tricks in recent years, namely its removal of economic issues from the realm of politics. For conservatives, Frank explains, economics and business operate according to natural laws (supply and demand) rather than political ones. Hence, it is conceivable that in Beck's mind, Koch spending $48.5 million on anti-climate change "scholarship" is simply a business expense, not a political one. And since Koch itself is just a business, it could never be a special interest like ACORN or SEIU, advocating for specific legislative outcomes.
This is the most charitable interpretation of Beck's glaring inconsistency -- but it's hardly an excuse. Either way, he is woefully misinforming his audience and massively misdirecting their energy.
Since we know that Beck's staff reads our work, I'll conclude by offering a specific challenge: Glenn, would you please explain on air why you don't think that the Koch family is a special interest worthy of your attention? Surely your audience deserves an answer, doesn't it?