David Folkenflik, a usually excellent media reporter, aired a story today on NPR about Rush Limbaugh that bizarrely juxtaposed Limbaugh's rhetorical extremism with the putative moderation of Glenn Beck:
LIMBAUGH: There's a whole psychology of doing a program the way I do it.
FOLKENFLIK: And that often involves barbs aimed directly at liberals. Some feminist leads become "feminazis." Recently, Limbaugh joked that new House speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker in US history, might well breast-feed a child sitting on her lap during official ceremonies. Limbaugh says he's just using humor to make a point, but a rival conservative talk show host, Glenn Beck, says such severe rhetoric only drives people apart.
BECK: I truly believe it's going to be the death of us -- it is going to be the death of our industry, it is going to be the death of our country if we don't stop dividing ourselves like this. It's just not right.
FOLKENFLIK: Beck has TV gigs on CNN and ABC. Despite that criticism, he's unabashed about his own beliefs, and he's taken flak for them.
BECK: There's nothing wrong with pointing out differences. There's nothing wrong with having a heated debate. There's nothing wrong with doing all of those things even in an entertaining way. But they cannot define you.
It's absurd to quote Beck denouncing those who are "dividing" us without providing the necessary context that he spouts divisive rhetoric every night. Here are a few choice excerpts from the Media Matters hit parade:
- Beck warned that if "Muslims and Arabs" don't "act now" by "step[ping] to the plate" to condemn terrorism, they "will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West."
- He described as "surprising" a letter criticizing Al Qaeda in Iraq because "the man who wrote it" -- Islamic Society of Nevada director Aslam Abdullah - "is a Muslim."
- He said that "[t]he Middle East is being overrun by 10th-century barbarians" and "[i]f they take over ... we're going to have to nuke the whole place."
- Beck aired a segment mocking the names of several missing Egyptian students in which the announcer said that one "may or may not be accompanied by his camel." The segment showed pictures of crowds and pointed to random, unidentifiable people as the missing Egyptians. It ended with a reading of the students' names in quick succession followed by the announcer pretending to gag as he struggled to pronounce them.
- Beck claimed that there are three reasons that an illegal immigrant "comes across the border in the middle of the night": "One, they're terrorists; two, they're escaping the law; or three, they're hungry. They can't make a living in their own dirtbag country."
- Beck referred to "those who were left in New Orleans [during Hurricane Katrina], or who decided to stay" as "scumbags."
- After airing a clip from the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth in which former Vice President Al Gore states that global warming could cause many highly populated coastal areas to be submerged by seawater -- including the entire city of Shanghai -- Beck responded: "This is what would happen to Shanghai. Does anybody really care? I mean, come on. Shanghai is under water. Oh, no! Who's gonna make those little umbrellas for those tropical drinks?"
But he hates people who divide us!
Update 1/26 12:18 PM: David Seagal has a long and awfully generous profile of Beck in today's Washington Post. He does mention what he calls Beck's "most embarrassing moment":
Beck invited the country's first Muslim congressman, newly elected Democrat Keith Ellison of Minnesota, on the show and led off by lobbing this stink bomb:
"I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
After a long discussion of Beck's personal transition from alcoholism to Mormonism, Seagal asks:
But if Beck has left jerkdom for good, what explains that Keith Ellison question?
"If I could take back the wording of that question, I would," he says, sounding genuinely contrite. He then says he was trying to make the point that moderates of every religion -- his included -- need to face down the extremists in their flock. How exactly his "prove to me" challenge was supposed to tease out that point is a mystery. ***
Of course, the no-he-didn't interview style, as well as Beck's strange confection of lectures, self-deprecation and one-liners, is what earned him a ticket to Headline News. The suits at the channel have long cast an envious eye on Fox's superior ratings, and in 2004 they started tinkering with their all-news format for the first time in 23 years. The perpetually enraged Nancy Grace was one of the first acquisitions. Beck is the most recent.
So where are the rest of the quotes above? How will Seagal's readers know what kind of things Beck actually says on the air?
Update 1/27 2:42 PM: Late Friday, Media Matters posted an article criticizing the Folkenflik and Seagal reports.