Salon.com's Alexander Zaitchik has been doing yeoman's work of late, digging deep into the oftentimes disturbing past of the new face and voice of the angry right, Fox News' Glenn Beck.
Last week, Zaitchik reintroduced us to W. Cleon Skousen, the discredited far-right activist and New World Order conspiracy theorist who argued that the Constitution was a divinely inspired document and that Dwight Eisenhower was a cog in the communist infiltration machine. Skousen's writings, as Zaitchik demonstrates, form the basis of Beck's worldview, and Beck hawks Skousen literature as part of his 9-12 Project. One can be sure that if Skousen were on the other side of the political spectrum and linked to President Obama in even the most trivial way, he'd feature prominently in Beck's conspiracy charts.
This week, Zaitchik is releasing a three-part investigation into Beck's early years as a radio personality and his troubled personal life. In part two, Zaitchik retells how Beck comported himself while trying to put his stamp on the radio business. These vignettes from his brief tenure in Louisville, Kentucky, are telling:
With Dries across the console, Beck directed a rotating ensemble cast and wrote or co-wrote daily gags and skits. Among the show's regular characters was Beck's zoo alter ego, Clydie Clyde. But Clyde was just one of Beck's unseen radio ventriloquist dolls. "He was amazing to watch when he was doing his cast of voices," remembers Kathi Lincoln, Beck's former newsreader. "Sometimes he'd prerecord different voices and talk back to the tape, or turn his head side to side while speaking them live on the air. He used to do a funny 'black guy' character, really over-the-top."
"Black guy" impersonations were just one sign of the young Beck's racial hang-ups. Among the few recordings of "Captain Beck and the A-Team" archived online is a show from February 1986 in which Beck discusses that night's prime-time television schedule. When the subject turns to Peter Strauss, an actor known for starring in television's first miniseries, Beck wryly observes, "They say without [Strauss' early work] the miniseries 'Roots' would never have happened." Clydie Clyde then chimes in with an exaggerated and ironic, "Oh, darn." The throwaway dig at "Roots," which chronicled the life of a slave family, wins knowing chuckles from Beck's co-hosts.
Beck's real broadcasting innovation during his stay in Kentucky came in the realm of vicious personal assaults on fellow radio hosts. A frequent target of Beck's in Louisville was Liz Curtis, obese host of an afternoon advice show on WHAS, a local AM news-talk station. It was no secret in Louisville that Curtis, whom Beck had never met and with whom he did not compete for ratings, was overweight. And Beck never let anyone forget it. For two years, he used "the big blonde" as fodder for drive-time fat jokes, often employing Godzilla sound effects to simulate Curtis walking across the city or crushing a rocking chair. Days before Curtis' marriage, Beck penned a skit featuring a stolen menu card for the wedding reception. "The caterer says that instead of throwing rice after the ceremony, they are going to throw hot, buttered popcorn," explains Beck's fictional spy.
Despite the constant goading, Curtis never responded. But being ignored only seemed to fuel Beck's hunger for a response. As his attacks escalated and grew more unhinged, a WHAS colleague of Curtis' named Terry Meiners decided to intervene. He appeared one morning unannounced at Beck's small office, which was filled with plaques, letters and news clippings -- "a shrine to all that is Glenn Beck," remembers Meiners. He told Beck to lay off Curtis, suggesting he instead attack a morning DJ like himself, who could return fire. "Beck told me, 'Sorry, all's fair in love and war,'" remembers Meiners. "He continued with the fat jokes, which were exceedingly cruel, pointless, and aimed at one of the nicest people in radio. Glenn Beck was over-the-top childish from Day One, a punk who tried to make a name for himself by being disruptive and vengeful."
Zaitchik goes on to explain how Beck took this same act from Louisville to Phoenix:
The animosity between Beck and Kelly continued to deepen. When Beck and Hattrick produced a local version of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" for Halloween -- a recurring motif in Beck's life and career -- Kelly told a local reporter that the bit was a stupid rip-off of a syndicated gag. The slight outraged Beck, who got his revenge with what may rank as one of the cruelest bits in the history of morning radio. "A couple days after Kelly's wife, Terry, had a miscarriage, Beck called her live on the air and says, 'We hear you had a miscarriage,' " remembers Brad Miller, a former Y95 DJ and Clear Channel programmer. "When Terry said, 'Yes,' Beck proceeded to joke about how Bruce [Kelly] apparently can't do anything right -- about he can't even have a baby."
"It was low class," says Miller, now president of Open Stream Broadcasting. "There are certain places you just don't go."
"Beck turned Y95 into a guerrilla station," says Kelly. "It was an example of the zoo thing getting out of control. It became just about pissing people off, part of the culture shift that gave us 'Jackass.'" Among those who were appalled by Beck's prank call was Beck's own wife, Claire, who had been friends with Kelly's wife since the two worked together at WPGC.
Writing about the recently leaked memo from General Stanley McChrystal about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal wrote this under the headline "McChrystal to resign if not given resources for Afghanistan":
According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn't given sufficient resources (read "troops") to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan [emphasis mine]
Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he'd stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy [emphasis mine].
Which, as clear as day, is mighty different from the story Roggio published. As usual, this apparently did not stop conservative bloggers from doing the hard work of clicking the link to see the story for themselves. They took Roggio's misrepresentation as gospel.
Today, America's Voice is launching a campaign to keep the pressure on CNN over their ongoing Lou Dobbs problem. They are going to air a new advertisement during Lou Dobbs Tonight calling out CNN for giving Dobbs 260 hours a year to broadcast his fact-free hate speech.
Watch the ad:
Read more about their campaign here.
Recently, Media Matters launched a campaign with America's Voice, NDN and several other prominent progressive groups pressuring advertisers to stop sponsoring Dobbs' hate speech. Read more at DropDobbs.com.
Barone's recent Washington Examiner column is awash in casual misinformation, as the conservative writer claims liberals just can't handle criticism. That all the mini-mobs were doing this summer were raising substantive differences with Obama's policies. And c'mon, why are Democrats so thin-skinned. Are they afraid of democracy? Of dissent?
Yadda, yadda, yadda. Just the usual nonsense.
But then Barone (surprise!) started making stuff up:
But it's interesting that the two most violent incidents at this summer's town hall meetings came when a union thug beat up a 65-year-old black conservative in Missouri and when a liberal protester bit off part of a man's finger in California. These incidents don't justify a conclusion that all liberals are violent. But they are more evidence that American liberals, unused to hearing dissent, have an impulse to shut it down.
Oh my, suddenly conservative martyr Kenneth Gladney is 65-years old? I have to say that this story of the supposed "union thug" beat-down keeps getting better and better over time. It's just another classic round of right-wing telephone tag masquerading as journalism. And in this game of tag, Barone is definitely it.
I doubt the columnist even cares what the actual facts of the story are. But on the off chance he does, he ought to post a correction because, as far as I can tell, in the context of the health care debate, no "65-year-old black conservative in Missouri" was ever beaten up this summer. Period. Barone just made that part up.
What did happen this summer was that Lou Dobbs and right-wing blogosphere, desperate for proof union thuggery, helped peddle the questionable tale of Gladney, who is a black conservative from Missouri. The exaggerated claim was that outside a town hall forum, Gladney had been brutally beaten (nearly to the point of death, according to some comically embellished accounts) and that a union thug was to blame. `Wingers even had YouTube video of the bloody beating to prove it.
The problem was when you watched the clip, viewers saw Gladney get pulled to the ground before he popped right back up less than two seconds later. Viewers saw Gladney walking around after the incident without an obvious scratch on his body, and in no apparent pain.
But within hours, and then days, the tale improved greatly. Soon Gladney showed up in a wheelchair at a right-wing rally thrown on his behalf. Why? because he was viciously beaten!!! Or something.
So yeah, the whole tale has been vastly improved over time in order to suit the right-wing mantra of how violent liberals are. And sure, if Barone wants to peddle that nonsense in his column, he's free to do so. And Lord knows he's peddled worse junk over the years.
But here's where the correction comes in and I'm not sure how Barrone is going to avoid this one. He wrote that the black conservative victim in Missouri was 65-years-old. (Oh, the humanity!) In fact, Gladney, according to the St. Louis Post, is 38 years old. Barone was only off by 27 years. And yes, it's a big deal becuase the supposed age of the (supposed) victim is supposed to send Barone's readers into shock. (They're beating up seniors!)
Question: Does Barone, and the Washington Examiner, do corrections? Or are facts for suckers.
UPDATED: Sadly, Gladney's martyr-like website is down due to lack of payment. The Washington Independent's David Weigel also notes that it's been a whole month since union thugs supposedly beat Gladney within an inch of his life, and yet not one of his attackers have been charged with a crime; a vicious crime conservatives claim was captured right on tape!! Guess the St. Louis PD doesn't see it that way.
Newsbuster Geoffrey Dickens:
Worried Lauer Asks Bill Clinton if NY Gov Hurting Democratic Party
During a wide-ranging interview with Bill Clinton, on Tuesday's "Today" show, about his Clinton Initiative summit, NBC's Matt Lauer wanted to get the former President's advice on whether current New York Governor David Paterson should run again. Lauer, seemingly concerned about the GOP capturing the governorship in New York state, asked Clinton if the unpopular Democrat's reelection bid might "hurt the Democratic Party."
Gee, another way to interpret that is that Lauer's question -- which included a statement that Paterson's "popularity ratings are anemic," called Paterson "embattled," noted that the White House suggested he step aside, and asked Clinton to side with either Paterson or Obama -- was a tricky one that highlighted a political challenge for Clinton's party.
But Dickens would rather attempt to read Lauer's mind and just assert that Lauer is "worried" and "concerned" about Republicans winning the governorship. Based on absolutely nothing. Based on a question that asked a Democratic politician about political peril facing the Democrats. That's evidence, according to Newsbusters, of bias.
In a report that belittled a case of supposed political correctness run amok, Fox New's Megyn Kelly today referred to the U.S. flags as "Stars and Bars." Huh? Stars and Bars, of course, is the name of the flag that flew for the Confederate South during the Civil War; a flag that remains a symbol of deep divisiveness in America today.
So it's weird, right? Who confuses "Old Glory" with the "Stars and Bars"?
But what was even more peculiar was that Kelly never caught her mistake, or seemed to think she'd even made a gaffe. Indeed, the "Stars and Bars" reference seemed to be written right into the news report. And so I guess viewers actually have to ask, since we're talking, y'know, about Fox News: Did Roger Ailes or somebody else high up at the news channel send out a Deep South, secessionist-friendly memo announcing the U.S. flag is now to be referred to as the "Stars and Bars"?
The Washington Post's "On Faith" site currently features a post by J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, explaining "How to Pray at School." In it, Walker touts the "See You at the Pole" event that "leads students to gather around their school flagpole for prayer on the fourth Wednesday of September":
First begun by Texas Baptists almost two decades ago, "See You at the Pole" has spread across the country, and it now garners participation by students of many denominational ties. It is important to highlight this program because it provides an example of how students can properly engage in religious exercises, even in the public schools.
Walker recognizes one possible "pitfall" of holding such demonstrations around the U.S. flag:
Finally, students should avoid being lulled into a civil religion trap. Joining hands in a circle facing the quintessential symbol of our country, the American Flag, makes this a real risk. Yes, we are told in Scriptures to pray for our leaders. Students should understand they are not praying to Caesar, but to God.
Oddly, though, it doesn't seem to have occurred to Walker that by holding their prayer group under the "quintessential symbol of our country," "See You at the Pole" participants a fundamentally linking their religion with America, and with patriotism. They risk conveying to non-participants that if they don't join the prayers, they are less "American" than those who do. That they undermine the spirit of the separation of church and state, if not any legal prohibitions on the same.
There are so many ways to do religion in public schools right. "See You at the Pole," when properly done, is one of the best. We don't need, and should not want, the government's help in our religious activities. Let the students pray, but let the government keep out of it.
So why choose the flag as the location? Doing so implies government help, even if none exists.
Is there any supernatural power right-wing bloggers don't process?
Check out Erick Erickson's "exclusive" at RedState where he claims he can pretty much prove Obama was lying when he said over the weekend that he wasn't paying much attention to the right-wing's beloved ACORN caper. How does crack journalist Erickson go about proving that Obama has been paying attention? Easy, Erickson lists all the connections, real and imagined, between ACORN and Obama. Even more amazing, after rifling through the ACORN CEO's private contact list, he reports she has phone numbers for staffers who work at the White House! I mean, how many other people in Washington, D.C. can say that?
Well, actually hundreds if not thousands can say that, but you get the idea....
RedState's bottom line: It can just sense that Obama's been following the ACORN story closely. Of course, RedState doesn't have any actual proof. It can't quote anybody who's had detailed discussion with Obama about ACORN in recent days. It doesn't have access to White House memos which indicate a huge interest from Obama in the story. But RedState can just tell. It can feel that Obama is lying.
I knew Obama's dismissive comment regarding ACORN on Sunday would drive the right-wing to distraction. (i.e. "Frankly, it's not really something I've followed closely. I didn't even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money.") I just didn't think folks like Erickson would resort to using supernatural powers (and lifted contact list info) to crack the case. I didn't think right-wing bloggers would claim they could read Obama's mind and definitively claim that the POTUS has been following the ACORN story closely.
Then again, I always underestimate bloggers like Erickson.
UPDATED: RedState's whiff simply highlights how, without eye-catching hidden camera video to rally around, the conservative attempt to turn ACORN into a blockbuster story about a sprawling Evil Empire just isn't going to have much staying power. Especially with crack "reporters" like Erickson flogging it. (Reminder: He took somebody's private phone/email contact list and posted it as an "exclusive." Disgraceful.)
UPDATED: RedState responds. Warning: It's almost too dumb for words.
Actual length of Fox News "America's Newsroom" segment about a model suing a plastic surgeon: 7 minutes and 20 seconds.
Now, it's Fox News, so this is probably a net positive. I mean, any time they spend on a frivolous non-story is time they aren't spending lying about something important. Wasting our time is probably the best we can hope for from them.
Check out who the Washington Post turned to for an assessment of President Obama's "Media Offensive":
The Post asked political experts what, if anything, President Obama has gained from his media offensive. Below are contributions from Karl Rove, Douglas E. Schoen, Dan Schnur, Ed Rogers, Dana Perino, Linda Chavez, and Lanny J. Davis.
If you're keeping score at home, that's five Republicans and two Democrats -- and neither of the Democrats -- Schoen and Davis -- are from the progressive wing of the party. (Doug Schoen -- a Fox News contributor -- joined Rove and the Republicans in criticizing Obama's efforts, saying he should have gone on Fox to reach swing voters. Lanny Davis -- a Washington Times columnist -- said the White House needs to appeal to people like ... Lanny Davis. And where is Lanny Davis on health care reform? He opposes a public option, much like the corporate interests that pay him. And Schoen and Davis are the Democrats the Post sought out.)
I guess this is another example of how the Washington Post needs to be more responsive to conservatives.
UPDATE: The last time the Post did one of these "occasional features," they featured five Republicans and three Democrats (one the chair of the DLC.)