Taranto's profile of fellow News Corp. employee Beck is all fluff

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

In the January 17 Wall Street Journal, James Taranto -- a member of the paper's conservative editorial board and fellow News Corp. employee with a history of advancing conservative misinformation -- penned a profile of Glenn Beck, which, among other things, completely ignored Beck's history of misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric. Additionally, Taranto wrote that Beck "reported on major news stories" like Van Jones without noting that Beck smeared Jones with the false claim that he was a convicted felon and repeated Beck's denial that he is a "crazy showman that's doing anything for money," while ignoring Beck's frequent promotion of gold to his viewers, without disclosing his financial interest in gold investment firms.

Ignoring admitted falsehoods, Taranto claims Beck "reported" on Van Jones

From the January 17 Wall Street Journal article:

Although he has reported on some major news stories, including the scandals involving Acorn and former Obama aide Van Jones, he thinks of himself as a commentator and entertainer rather than a journalist. "I'm not interested in breaking news," he tells me. "I'm interested in telling the story of what's going on and then trying to figure it out."

Beck falsely accused Van Jones of being a "convicted felon ... who spent, I think, six months in prison after the Rodney King beating." As Eva Paterson, president and founder of the Equal Justice Society, has explained, "Van [Jones] has never served time in any prison. He has never been convicted of any crime." On August 11, Beck said (transcript from the Nexis database):

BECK: We've spent some time over here. There is so much more to cover, but I want to talk to you about the green movement root. I couldn't figure out why the green movement -- here is Van Jones. This is a convicted felon, a guy who spent, I think, six months in prison after the Rodney King beating.

He was a black nationalist. He came out an anarchist and a communist. He then found the green movement was the new red. And now, he's our green jobs czar. Why is there so much money from the green movement, fund for public interest?

"Four months" later, Beck retracts falsehood that Van Jones was a convicted felon. In December, Beck finally acknowledged: "Van Jones is not a convicted felon. He was arrested. He was jailed briefly and then when he emerged, that is-- the story of jail here, is really not about jail with Van Jones. It is the story that he said afterwards, that's where he became radicalized, where he began to embrace communism." [Glenn Beck, 12/4/09]

Taranto quotes Beck denying that he's "the crazy showman that's doing anything for money"

From the Wall Street Journal article:

Mr. Beck identifies with the Howard Beale character from the 1976 film "Network." Beale, played by Peter Finch, is a news anchor on a fictional broadcast network who has a nervous breakdown on air, becomes a raving populist, and is a big hit with viewers. Mr. Beck invokes the fictional anchorman's most famous line: "I am mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. The part of Howard Beale that I liken myself to is the moment when he was in the raincoat, where he figures everything out, and he's like, 'Whoa, whoa, wait a minute! Why the hell aren't you up at the window shouting outside?'"

Mr. Beck adds, "What the media wants to make me is the Howard Beale at the end, the crazy showman that's doing anything for money. That I don't liken myself to."

But Taranto ignored that Beck promotes gold on his TV show without disclosing Goldline deal

Beck "Three G's" solution to possible U.S. economic "collapse": "God, Gold, and Guns." On the November 23 edition of his Fox News show, Beck told his audience that in the event of a possible U.S. economic "collapse," they should practice "the 3 G system" of "God, Gold, and Guns."

Beck: "protect yourself" with gold. As Think Progress noted, on the October 6 edition of his Fox News program, Beck suggested that viewers could "protect yourself" from "the end of the almighty dollar" and possible hyperinflation by purchasing gold. In an October 7 blog post, examiner.com's Ryan Witt commented:

So what does Beck tell his audience they can do in response to the coming crisis of hyperinflation? Buy gold of course. Beck interviews a professor from Columbia University and in the end one of the things they advise the audience to do is buy gold. So Beck essentially scares his audience into believing that hyperinflation and economic collapse is a near sure thing and then advises them to buy gold to protect themselves. All along Beck never mentions that a gold-buying company happens to be one of his few remaining sponsors. Beck also never interviews other economists who believe that we are nowhere near the economic conditions necessary to see hyperinflation. Finally Beck also never informs his audience of the risks involved in buying gold. Gold has seen its price skyrocket with the economic troubles of the last few years and there is a real danger that the price of gold may actually decrease if the economy improves in the coming years. Quite simply if one buys gold high right now they may be forced to sell low later.

Numerous gold investment firms advertise on Beck's TV show. Since November 1, 2009, the following precious metals investment firms have advertised on Beck's Fox News show, according to Media Matters for America's daily record of his program's advertisers:

Multiple investment firms typically run ads during any given broadcast of Beck's show.

Goldline has "exclusive" deal with Beck's radio show, Beck is "Paid Spokesman." Goldline International's website states that it is the "Exclusive precious metals sponsor of the Glenn Beck radio show, the third highest rated talk radio show in the country." Presumably included as part of the sponsorship are Beck's regular live promotions for Goldline during the show.A Beck-centric page on the Goldline website declared the company "Glenn Beck's Choice for Gold" and identifies Beck as a "Paid Spokesman for Goldline." Beck is quoted stating: "Before I started turning you on to Goldline, I wanted to look them in the eye. This is a top notch organization that's been in bussiness [sic] since 1960." (The page has since been edited to change the description of Beck to "Radio Sponsor for Goldline" following Fox News' statement that the channel "prohibits any on-air talent from endorsing products or serving as a product spokesperson.") In a video Beck made for Goldline, Beck invoked the Founding Fathers to pitch Goldline investments, and Goldline was the "exclusive sponsor" of Beck's "Common Sense Comedy" tour.

Taranto ignored Beck's extensive track record of falsehoods

At no point in his profile did Taranto address Beck's extensive history of misinformation. For instance:

Beck falsely claimed average UAW worker makes $154 per hour. On February 18, 2009, Beck falsely claimed that "the average UAW [United Auto Workers] worker" earns "[a] hundred and fifty-four dollars an hour if you look at -- you know, if you add in all of the benefits." In fact, a Barclays Capital analysis reportedly found that U.S. automakers "pay an average of $55 an hour in wages and benefits to hourly workers."

Beck falsely asserted that U.S. does not fingerprint foreign visitors or collect rapists' DNA. On March 16, 2009, Beck asserted that "[w]e can't fingerprint anybody who's coming into this country because that would be offensive" and that "[w]e can't take DNA samples from killers or rapists, but you can have your fingerprint taken if you want to sell your house." In fact, the Department of Homeland Security does take fingerprints from "aliens seeking admission to the United States" at U.S. entry points, and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "All 50 states require that convicted sex offenders provide a DNA sample."

Beck reported fake murder story from ACORN video as fact. On September 15, 2009, after Andrew Breitbart posted a video of an ACORN employee in San Bernardino, California, claiming that she had killed her ex-husband, Beck joined Fox News colleagues Karl Rove, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity in promoting it without fact-checking it or indicating that they had contacted ACORN for a response to the claim. In fact, ACORN stated that the employee made up the story because she recognized that the actors in the video "were clearly playing with" her so she "matched their false scenario with her own false scenarios," and, indeed, the San Bernardino Police Department has said her claim is false.

Beck falsely claimed Anita Dunn "worships" "her hero" Mao Zedong. Throughout most of his October 15, 2009, Fox News program, Beck falsely claimed that White House communications director Anita Dunn "worships" and "idolizes" "her hero" Mao Zedong. In fact, in the video that Beck aired as evidence to support his claims, Dunn offered no endorsement of Mao's ideology or atrocities -- rather, she commented that Mao and Mother Teresa were two of her "favorite political philosophers ... to basically deliver a simple point," and based on short quotes from them, she offered the advice that "you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths" or "let external definition define how good you are internally."

Beck falsely claimed that under the Senate health care bill, "You don't get a single benefit until 2014." On November 19, 2009, Beck falsely claimed that under the Senate health care bill, "All of the benefits of this bill don't kick in until when? You don't get a single benefit until 2014." According to a document released by Senate Democrats summarizing the "Immediate Benefits" of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the bill included numerous benefits that would "be available in the first year after enactment" of the bill. Indeed, Washington Post writer Ezra Klein published a list of benefits that the Senate bill would provide "before 2014."

Reviving "born alive" falsehood, Beck claimed Obama suggested it's OK to "put a spike in the baby's head." On November 25, Beck falsely claimed that Obama "suggested that [it] was OK" to "go into those pregnant women and pull the babies out of them and put a spike in the baby's head," echoing the oft-repeated right-wing falsehood that Obama did not support protecting babies who survived botched abortions. In fact, while serving in the state Senate, Obama opposed legislation to amend the Illinois Abortion Law because the amendment threatened abortion rights and was unnecessary since existing law already required doctors to provide medical care for babies who survived abortions.

Beck falsely claimed that no jobs are being "saved or created" by recovery legislation. On December 2, Beck falsely claimed that "jobs are not being saved or created" by the economic recovery legislation and that the Obama administration is "creating the make-believe 'saved or created' category" for jobs. In fact, the CBO had recently estimated that the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, which was heavily promoted by Obama, created 1.6 million jobs, and the Bush administration repeatedly stated that its economic initiatives had "saved or created" jobs.

Beck led charge advancing "Lie of the Year" contender that Holdren supported forced abortions and sterilizations. Throughout 2009, Beck repeatedly advanced the false claim that White House science and technology adviser John Holdren -- whom Beck called "our science czar" -- supported forced abortions and putting sterilants in drinking water. PolitiFact.com declared his claim "pants on fire" false and nominated it for "Lie of the Year," stating that Holdren and his co-authors "make clear that they did not support coercive means of population control." Beck's claim was PolitiFact's runner-up for Lie of the Year.

Beck has a history of violent, inflammatory rhetoric

Beck discussed "put[ting] poison" in Nancy Pelosi's wine. Beck imagined being invited to a "shindig" put on by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying: "So, Speaker Pelosi, I just wanted to -- you gonna drink your wine? Are you blind? Do those eyes not work? There you -- I want you to drink it now. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it. ... By the way, I put poison in your -- no, I -- I look forward to all the policy discussions that we're supposed to have -- you know, on health care, energy reform, and the economy." [Glenn Beck, 8/6/09]

Obama is a "racist" and "has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture." Beck said: "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy -- over and over and over again -- who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture -- I don't know what it is. But you can't sit in a pew with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and not hear some of that stuff and not have it wash over." He later added, "I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem. He has a -- this guy is, I believe, a racist. Look at the way -- look at the things he has been surrounded by." [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 7/28/09]

Beck reportedly ridiculed rival radio host's wife for having a miscarriage. Salon.com's Alexander Zaitchik quoted a former Beck colleague describing an incident in which Beck called a rival radio host's wife on the air and ridiculed her for having a miscarriage:

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." [Salon.com, 9/22/09]

Beck poured "gasoline" on an "average American, said: "President Obama, why don't you just set us on fire?" Bringing an actor onto his show to "demonstrate at least how I feel" about Obama's policies, Beck proceeded to pour water out of a gasoline can onto the actor, exclaiming: "President Obama, why don't you just set us on fire?" Beck went on to plead for "some sanity in our country for a second." [Glenn Beck, 4/9/09]

Beck listed people he'd like to "beat to death with a shovel." In 2001, Beck enumerated the various people that he "would want to kill with a shovel," or "line up" and "shoot ... in the head," including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY). [3/9/2001]

Taranto has repeatedly pushed conservative misinformation

Media Matters has documented a number of instances in which Taranto has promoted conservative talking points and falsehoods over the years. For instance, Taranto recently asserted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "claim about 'swastikas' is the product of a fevered imagination," when, in fact, Pelosi had rightly noted that multiple protesters at health care reform protests have held signs featuring swastikas. Moreover, at no point did Taranto make clear that News Corp. owns both The Wall Street Journal and Fox News.

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Wall Street Journal
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James Taranto, Glenn Beck
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