You don't need a weatherman to know Glenn Beck distorts quotes

Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

On his Fox News show last night, Glenn Beck distorted five quotes from progressives in two minutes. You have to hand it to him -- the man works hard.

All this quote-cropping was part of Beck's attempt to shore up his laughable conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is secretly governing from the Weather Underground manifesto. He began by reading from a section of the manifesto that indentified "enemies" of the Weather Underground, which Beck summed up as "management, corporate lawyers, the evil executive class." He then asked, "Is there any attack at all that seems familiar?" and rolled a montage of four clips.

Beck's first bit of video evidence that the Obama administration is covertly using the playbook of a bunch of 1960s "hippies" -- a word he literally hissed during the show last night -- was a clip of Barack Obama saying this: "I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children to -- for them to go to school."

That's not even a complete sentence. How could anyone possibly think this is a fair representation of what Obama said?

I've lost track of the number of times Beck has distorted this particular statement, which is taken from a 15-year-old public radio interview that Obama gave before he had even been elected to the Illinois Senate. In recent days, Beck used the same clip to accuse Obama of "racism." As the full context shows, Obama was talking about personal responsibility on the part of both black people and white people -- not how evil he thinks white executives in the suburbs are.

Obama said, "And I really want to emphasize the word 'responsibility.' I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children to -- for them to go to school or you're an inner-city child who doesn't want to take responsibility for keeping your street safe and clean, both of those groups have to take some responsibility if we're going to get beyond the kinds of divisions that we face right now."

The next speech fragment in Beck's montage was from Hillary Clinton: "The other day, the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits" -- and the clip ended there, in a comically abrupt fashion.

Those words are from a speech Clinton gave at the 2007 winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee. Here's the full context, with bold text picking up where Beck's clip left off (from Nexis):

CLINTON: Now, I know some people say, "What is Hillary Clinton doing talking about health care?"


Well, as Dr. Dean knows, this is one of my favorite subjects.

And I learned a lot about what we need to do to get it done. It's a big difference between calling for it, impassioned speeches about it, presenting legislation that embodies your hopes and dreams, and another thing to put together the political coalitions to actually make it happen.


The same is true with energy independence.

The Democrats know what needs to be done. Again, we're working to try to push this agenda forward.

The other day, the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits, and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence.


I have to tell you, I am not running for the president to put Band-Aids on our problems. I am running to ensure that we actually address them and meet them and get results here in our country. Because we have to prove to ourselves as well as the rest of the world that we're still the most creative, most innovative, most effective nation in the history of the world.

So, Clinton was talking about putting the proceeds of a windfall profits tax on oil companies into a fund that would move America toward energy independence. How do I know that she was talking about a windfall profits tax? Because Glenn Beck said so, back when he was fearmongering about the same quote in 2008 and 2009.

By the way, a windfall profits tax isn't some nutty new plot that progressives hatched after their recent electoral successes. As conservative author Amity Shlaes has noted, the idea was considered by the Nixon administration in 1973.

Next in the progression of chopped-up quotes: Joe Biden, in a September 2008 interview with ABC News. Here's what Beck's audience heard Biden say: "It's time to be patriotic, OK? Time to jump in. Time to be part of the deal. Time to help get America out of the rut. And the way to do that is, they're still going to pay less taxes than they paid under Reagan." That doesn't even make much sense by itself, but OK.

During the ABC interview, Kate Snow asked Biden how he and Obama planned to help people who had lost money in their 401(k)s. Biden responded that they planned to create jobs through investing in infrastructure and that this would benefit people in the middle class. Snow then said, "Anybody making over $250,000" -- and Biden replied, "Is gonna pay more." Anyone who followed the '08 campaign knows this to be a reference to his ticket's plan to consider raising taxes only on families making more than $250,000. Full context (from Nexis):

SNOW: And there's some common themes, and I know you've heard this, but they all say they want to know what you're gonna do specifically...

BIDEN: Exactly. Exactly.

SNOW: ...about the money that they've just lost in the stock market...

BIDEN: That's right.

SNOW: ...about their 401 (k), about the pension plan. What do you say to those folks?

BIDEN: I can tell you, no, I, it's a long list, let me just start off. We're gonna create jobs. Here we're gonna create jobs. This isn't pie in the sky. Two million jobs if we invest the $70 billion a year we want to invest in infrastructure, new broadband capability, the ability for America to move into the 21st century. By the way, look, the fundamental difference between us is, between, there's clear choices in this election. And John's a good guy, and Barack's - everybody's a good guy. Fundamental philosophy difference. Take a look. We wanna take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people.

SNOW: Anybody making over $250,000...

BIDEN: Is gonna pay more.

SNOW: gonna pay more.

BIDEN: You got it, it's time to be patriotic, Kate. Time to jump in. Time to be part of the deal. Time to help get America out of the rut. And the way to do that is, they're still gonna pay less taxes than they paid under Reagan.

Biden's statement about it being patriotic for wealthier people to more pay taxes became a brief point of contention during the presidential campaign. Opinions generally broke along ideological lines, with progressives agreeing and conservatives disagreeing. But how in the world is it evidence that the Obama administration is trying to implement the Weather Underground's manifesto? Because federal income tax rates on the top tax bracket might increase to the level they were at a decade ago?

During the campaign, Democratic candidates frequently discussed allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. (Similar conversations are happening now.) If it does occur, the top rate would change from the current 35 percent to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6 percent. As Biden correctly pointed out, that would be lower than the top tax rate during most of Reagan's presidency.

The final clip in Beck's montage was of Obama in a 60 Minutes interview from December 7, 2009. In the video, he says, "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat-cat bankers on Wall Street." I guess this is supposed to show that Obama demonizes bankers.

In the full interview, Steve Kroft asked Obama about a proposal floating around at the time to use TARP money to finance a jobs bill. Bold text picks up where Beck's clip stops:

KROFT: How much money of this new proposal is going to end up going to small businesses, do you know?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think that we're still examining it. And Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, I think has started to refine the numbers in terms of how much money is being repaid by the banks, what we actually think losses will be on loans and assistance that were given to the banks. And there's definitely gonna be more left over than anybody had anticipated. And then, the question is what can we do for small businesses in a realistic timeframe. And what should we devote to just drawing down the debt and making sure that taxpayers are paid back. Or at least the kitty is refilled. And we'll be making those determinations over the next several weeks.

What I don't want is TARP to become -- having spent all that money to help the banks, we didn't need it as much as we wanted, that it doesn't become some slush fund where we can just spend willy-nilly on whatever we want. Because we still have some significant deficit issues out there.

KROFT: Why not reuse it why not use it to reduce the deficit?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think that a portion of it will be used. And that's why I say what I'm looking for are there some targeted things that we can do that will help really jumpstart job creation in an environment where we are now seeing some good economic growth. And what can't be used effectively for that narrow objective I think has to go back to reduce the deficit. 'Cause, you know, we're operating under a fiscal constraint.

Now, let me say more generally I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street. Nothing has been more frustrating to me this year than having to salvage a financial system at great expense to taxpayers that was precipitated, that was caused in part by completely irresponsible actions on Wall Street. And I've spoken out repeatedly about this.

This is why A, we've got to have financial regulatory reform. And I want that in place next year to prevent this from ever happening again. That's why we've put in some constraints on any bank that was receiving assistance from taxpayers. Constraints on the kinds of bonuses they could pay out. The only ones that are gonna be paying out these fat bonuses are the ones that have now paid back that TARP money and aren't using taxpayer loans.

Obama's very next sentence makes clear that he was saying he didn't like having to spend taxpayers' money to fix the financial system. Beck himself has burned through vast quantities of oxygen agreeing with that sentiment. (Or, he has since he reversed himself on the issue, at least.)

There you have it. Those four clips spanned about 40 seconds, had virtually nothing in common, and contained absolutely no expression of support for the Weather Underground manifesto.

Unfortunately, Beck wasn't done. He moved on to accusing Obama of being a global socialist, just as the manifesto urges. Or something. It's tough to tell sometimes.

His proof was a seven-word sound bite from Obama: "and a fellow citizen of the world." This blip is from Obama's speech in Berlin in July 2008. Beck left out the part where Obama identified himself as a "proud citizen of the United States":

Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen -- a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

This is just a cordial way for Obama to introduce himself to an international audience. Ronald Reagan did the same thing when he opened a 1982 speech to the U.N. General Assembly by saying, "I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world." Incidentally, last week Beck was hyping two plaques that Reagan kept on his Oval Office desk, copies of which Beck now keeps on his own studio desk. I guess Beck remains unaware of Reagan's adherence to Weathermen ideology, or something.

Over and over, Beck uses this same technique. Scary-sounding words, chopped up and blended together, totally stripped of context and held out as irrefutable proof of whatever lunatic conspiracy theory he's peddling on a given day. It requires a lot of time and many words to refute what he's saying, and he uses that fact to his advantage.

This was just one brief segment on one show. If you listened to and believed every word Beck says, the effect would be overwhelming.

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Fox News Channel
Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck show
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