In the weeks leading up to his 8-28 rally, Glenn Beck repeatedly invoked Martin Luther King Jr., claiming that his rally would "reclaim the civil rights movement" and "pick up Martin Luther King's dream that has been distorted and lost."
But as we have noted, if anyone has been distorting King's message, it's Beck himself. Beck has portrayed the civil rights marches of the 1960s as a movement solely for equal rights that did not seek to promote social justice or economic rights. But that portrayal doesn't square with the reality of the civil rights movement. For example, the full name of the rally at which King delivered his "I have a dream" speech was the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," and the leaders of the rally included labor leaders along with civil rights leaders.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace confronted Beck with this reality, noting that King's march on Washington was "for Jobs and Freedom" and that the "civil rights movement was always about an economic agenda."
And guess what? After weeks of repeatedly invoking King while promoting the 8-28 rally, and all of his talk about "reclaiming the civil rights movement," Beck now says he doesn't agree with a key portion of King's vision for civil rights -- going so far as to suggest that the civil rights movement's economic agenda was "racial politics."
Here's that exchange between Wallace and Beck:
WALLACE: The civil rights movement always had an agenda beyond just equality - beyond just, quote, "justice." The full name of the march 47 years ago was the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." One of the speakers at the event was a labor leader, A. Philip Randolph, who talked about the injustice of people who live in poverty. John Lewis, then a student, now a congressman, said this at the event: "We need a bill that will ensure the equality of a maid who earns $5 a week in the home of a family whose total income is $100,000 a year." The civil rights movement was always about an economic agenda.
BECK: Well, you know what, Chris? I think that is part of it, but that's a part of it that I don't agree with. I think the bigger part - the thing that we fail to recognize is that is the racial politics, that the real agenda should be equal justice, an equal shot. The dream was judge a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin.
Later, Wallace again pressed Beck on the economic dimension to the civil rights movement, noting that King was assassinated while leading the Poor People's Campaign and that King "advocated what he called an economic bill of rights, guaranteeing everyone a job." Wallace then said to Beck: "I mean, you may say, well, that's not your civil rights movement, but it was Martin Luther King's."
Beck's response? "Well, I'm not Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King would have to stand for Martin Luther King -- let his words stand where they are."
That's quite a backtrack by Beck, who previously claimed he sought to "pick up Martin Luther King's dream that has been distorted and lost" with his 8-28 rally; compared the rally to King's "I have a dream" speech; and called it "divine providence" that the rally would be on the anniversary of that speech.
Beck has said that his 8-28 rally would "reclaim the civil rights movement." But it's clear now that Beck was only interested in reclaiming the parts of the civil rights movement with which he agrees while continuing to demonize the economic elements of the movement.
UPDATE: By acknowledging that economic aspects were "a part" of the civil rights movement, Beck is completely walking back his previous false criticisms of Rev. Al Sharpton and congressional Democrats, who Beck blasted for suggesting that social and economic justice played a role in the civil rights movement.
In July, for instance, Beck claimed that "the movement of the 1960s has been perverted and distorted" by people "like the Reverend Al Sharpton telling people that Martin Luther King's dream was really about redistribution of wealth." In May, Beck attacked congressional Democrats for tying health care, banking reform, and housing to civil rights. Describing the "civil rights marchers," Beck said they "were people with profound belief in God. They were trying to set things right. They weren't crying for social justice, they were crying out for equal justice."
So, previously, Beck attacked Democrats and progressives for tying economic issues to the civil rights movement. But today Beck admitted that an economic agenda was indeed "a part" of the civil rights movement -- a part of the movement with which Beck disagrees. That's a total walk-back by Beck.