The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

28 January 2007

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Talk Radio


Glenn Beck In NPR Interview Flap

What explains the mainstream media's new fascination with loose cannon talker Glenn Beck? Depending on a particular story's slant, the syndicated host is either a right- wing extremist or an independent, non- partisan thinker.

In recent days, coverage of Beck, who also hosts a cable talk show on CNN's Headline News Channel, has leaned toward the latter.

In a world full of "divisive" conservative characters such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, is Glenn the new voice of "reason", they ask?

In the past, your Radio Equalizer has been tough on Beck, mostly because this site objects to his careless (and often inconsistent) rhetoric, in addition to the way he was forced upon talk radio stations nationwide as part of a corporate mandate.

Many Clear Channel talk stations have been compelled to carry his show without regard for a local outlet's optimal programming needs. In addition, some non- Clear Channel stations have found they must run Beck in order to obtain (or merely maintain) major syndicated talent.

And for conservatives, Beck represents baggage the movement certainly doesn't need at the moment.

To be fair, however, some regular Radio Equalizer readers love Beck and our criticism of him has generated a decent amount of angry mail.

A particularly compelling reason for concern is his recent hiring as a regular commentator for ABC's Good Morning America, a bastion of televised liberalism if there ever was one. Was the network looking for a cartoonish "conservative" to provide easy fodder for their anchors?

Now, it appears Beck has once again found himself in the middle of a flap, one he swears isn't his fault. But it's his dubious need to appear "independent" that brought on this controversy in the first place.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Beck appeared to be attacking Rush Limbaugh for his supposedly "divisive" rhetoric:

Republican leaders say Limbaugh's ability to energize listeners was a big help to them in winning control of Congress in 1994. Nowadays, the conservative media landscape is far more crowded. But there's no true left-of-center radio counterpart to Limbaugh. The liberal Air America talk radio network has struggled, and its finances are in shambles.

But Rush Limbaugh keeps on going. Even with a changing political landscape, Limbaugh sees no need to change the format of his show.

"I'm the expert. I don't need to talk to somebody else to find out what's going on," he says. "There's a whole psychology of doing the program the way that I do it."

And that often involves barbs aimed directly at liberals. Some feminist leaders become "Feminazis." Recently, Limbaugh joked that new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the first woman in U.S. history to hold that position — might well breastfeed a child sitting on her lap during official ceremonies.

Limbaugh says he is just using humor to make a point. But a rival conservative talk show host, Glenn Beck, says such severe rhetoric only drives people apart.

"I truly believe it's going to be the death of us. It's going to be the death of our industry, and the death of our country, if we don't stop dividing ourselves like this," Beck says. "It's not right."

In response, Beck claims his quote was taken out of context, according to Tim Graham at NewsBusters:

After conducting a 30 minute interview with me on the supposed topic of 'does conservative talk radio reach across party lines, and if so, how?' NPR chose to take a quote from me and use it completely out of context. The quote was not about Rush Limbaugh, which is how it was made to look in the story, it was in response to how the country is dangerously divided along party lines and how that division may be the death of us all. I was also commenting about my disdain for the breed of talk radio hosts whose sole AGENDA is get people elected; they are contributing to this division.

"As Rush said in the story, his goal is to attract the largest possible audience, and that's my goal as well. Rush and I are not "rival" talk hosts, as the story states, since my show precedes him on the same network, and we both work for the same company. I was disappointed to see how NPR chose to make it look like I was insulting Rush, which is something I would never do.

Graham also points to this transcript from Beck's Friday program:

“This [story] was supposed to be about talk radio, I thought. When I was doing the interview, it was about talk radio. This seems to be a hatchet piece on Rush Limbaugh. This has nothing to do—I spent half the interview talking about people on the left, and air America.

I talked about how people are being divided---In fact, I said good things about Rush and Franken, because they actually believe these things. Limbaugh is a conservative that believes in the conservative agenda. Franken is insane and he actually believes in his insane thoughts.

Now Air America was built to win elections. Built to win elections. And that's the problem. It's not a problem to have a conservative viewpoint or a liberal viewpoint. It is a problem when all you care about is politics and you want to win elections...”

We'd be tempted to cut Beck a great deal of slack here, but we're not sold on the idea he was primarily referring to Air America Radio.

If so, how would Franken and Rhodes represent the "death of our industry"? It's libtalk that's near death, not the industry, as Limbaugh's ratings are solid and FNC's O'Reilly Factor is going strong.

It could be that Beck is talking out of both sides of his mouth: one viewpoint to please the suits at CNN and ABC, where he needs to seem "moderate" and the other to maintain street cred with conservative talk radio listeners who don't want to see Rush Limbaugh trashed in print.

Given Beck's track record, it's hard to accept his word alone that NPR's liberal reporters merely took his words out of context.

And more publicity came Beck's way this week from the Washington Post, which used him to attack Limbaugh and O'Reilly, portraying Glenn as a talker with "something new" to offer:

The Right & the Wrong

Conservative Talker Glenn Beck Puts His Own Failings Up Front

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer


The set of Glenn Beck's talk show on CNN Headline News looks like the rooftop patio of a posh apartment, complete with simulated bricks and a huge photo-realist mural of a SoHo block. Beck is standing in the middle of this fake aerie, riffing about porn.

He avoids X-rated movies and magazines, he says, but won't offer the righteous condemnations you'd expect from the God-fearing conservative that he constantly reminds viewers he is. Porn isn't for him -- but neither is legislating morality.

"I'm just trying to live the best life I know how to," he explains, gesticulating in his somewhat manic style. "For example, I'm an alcoholic. If I have one drink, my life will spiral out of control. But man, if you can have a few drinks and not end up at a Denny's in Tijuana, God bless you, brother. It's your right!"

When the program "Glenn Beck" joined the revamped Headline News lineup in May, initially it looked as if CNN was simply peddling a younger, folksier version of Bill O'Reilly -- a self-appointed truth-squadding right-winger who will not shut up. But Beck, who was recently tapped to make editorial cameos on ABC's "Good Morning America," has brought something new to the TV blowhard genre.

While most sermonizing conservatives wait for a public debacle to expose their failings -- think of William Bennett and his slot-machine addiction, or Rush Limbaugh and his pill problem -- Beck and his many inner demons are on a first-name basis, and he's constantly introducing them to viewers. His alcoholism is just part of it.

Plus, where O'Reilly traffics in absolute truths and certitudes, Beck is a hand-wringer, forever rummaging around the gray areas in any debate, pontificating even as he wonders aloud if his instincts are wrong, or at least worthy of reexamination. He's more culture worrier than culture warrior.

"The show is a little too high-and-mighty today," Beck tells his producer during a commercial break last week when the porn segment is over. "A little too 'Here's how to live your life.' "

The WaPo story's primary focus is on Beck's jerky track record and how past failings have made him the "humble" fellow he is today.

Regardless of his true personal nature, however, it's clear he's merely being used by the mainstream media to further an anti- Limbaugh and O'Reilly agenda. Doesn't he realize this?

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  • Isn't everyone "..merely being used by the mainstream media to further an anti- Limbaugh and O'Reilly agenda..." in your eyes?

    Beck is a schmuck, and there are elements of (gasp!) actual, valid points of rational discussion brought up in this article....but your record of total, blind worship of right-wing extremist talkers unfortunately excludes you from worthwhile, serious consideration in the matter.

    On the other hand, if your core audience is content with choosing between the schlemiel and the schlamazzel and calling it "conservative", I guess your job is done here...

    Regular readers, please take note that it had to reach a point where stations are dropping Limbaugh and he reached the final throes of opiate addiction and degeneracy before Brian even was willing to acknowledge that any problem existed!

    With friends like these.....

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 28 January, 2007 18:45  

  • I wonder if you know what a self-parodying joke you are Brian when you claim to be some kind of even-handed journo, when everyone here knows your are a GOP dirty trickster enforcer trying desperately to prop up the collapsing edifice of lies which had bought you guys your power. You completely destroyed this country's reputation in the world, turning us from a shining light of freedom to a pariah nation in 6 years time, split the economy cleanly into haves and have nots (setting yourselves up for a revolution) and now the whole world waits to see if you guys are suicidal sicko enough to drive us off the nuclear cliff.

    I always knew from my youthful association with the Young Republican trickster/liars that you guys are so monomaniacal that when your were finally found out to be utter frauds and charlatans, when the public began to talk of impeachment and washing you out in tidal wave proportions, that there would still be disgusting pasty pudgy ideology ogres who would still try to enforce like bullies the lies, even as they all collapsed and burned around you like the 19 year old American soldiers none of you ever were.

    You are now courting something a lot more serious than ideological differences. What you have brought upon you requires, at the bare minimum according to every international commentator I have heard, a purging for war crimes with the assist of the entire world. And here at home, comes the revolution we know where to find the dirtiest of you tricksters.

    By Blogger gregrocker, at 28 January, 2007 19:11  

  • Interesting.

    What is it about Beck's program that compels you to pay for podcasts and listen to him, over other, more well- known neocon talk shows?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 29 January, 2007 01:19  

  • hash,

    The regular readers have picked up on your hatefullness and your bias among other things. If you libs were any good, you'd wouldn't be so afraid of having conservatives on the air or fair and free forums for ideas to be expressed.

    By Blogger PCD, at 29 January, 2007 09:02  

  • Fudge, who cares?


    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 29 January, 2007 09:57  

  • Beck, Limbaugh, both hacks, both liars, both mentally impaired.

    Beck long after the "Hillary said Obama went to a Madras" gag was up, was still saying Hillary said it.

    Conservative pundits embarass normal conservatives on a regular basis, including Limbaugh who calls people "halfafricans", embarassing hacks.

    Anyone who listens to either of these retards with a microphone, should get their head examined
    live homegrown talk
    mocking the right,exposing the right

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 29 January, 2007 10:02  

  • Well, it's true.

    You neocons did.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 29 January, 2007 23:11  

  • What kind of name is "Stacy"?

    What ethnic background?

    I've NEVER known a straight man to refer to himself as "Stacy"....

    (Well, you asked....)

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 30 January, 2007 18:51  

  • I listen to Glenn Beck every chance I get. When I'm in my car, I listen to Rush, Sean Hannity, and other conservative talk radio hosts. I think you're being a little unfair to Beck.

    What you seem to object to is that his radio show is a hybrid between politics and entertainment. When Rush crosses over from politics to humor, he frequently gets skewered for bombast. Beck divides his airtime between both humor and politics. For me, this makes for a show I can keep on without getting tired of listening to the same thing, day in-day out.

    Beck is not afraid to both say what he thinks, and to admit that he might not have all the answers. I find this refreshing. I suspect that most of the country (even those that consider themselves "liberal" or "conservative") are not in lock-step with the leaders on either side. [For instance, while I support President Bush, I disagree with the troop buildup (we need MORE troops over there to win) and the border (lock it down FIRST - THEN we can talk about what to do with illegals already here.] Beck isn't a afraid to differ with the far right side when he feels it's appropriate.

    Having heard Glenn and Rush on the air together, I am certain that NPR (itself a far-left leaning group) took his comments out of context.

    I wish we could get away from labels like "neocon" and "liberal" and forgo litmus tests to determine the ideological purity of a host or commentator. Glenn Beck may not be the most conservative host out there, but he often reflects my own positions on things - and he entertains me. He's got my vote.

    By Blogger captaindigital, at 30 January, 2007 22:09  

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