Conservative radio and television talk show host Glenn Beck has made his reputation and fortune in part by taking innocent if not strictly professional relations and turning them into major political scandals. His crusades against Obama administration advisers Patrick Gaspard and Van Jones, who has since resigned, stand out as crowning achievements of the guilt-by-association game.
What happens, however, when one looks closely at the people Beck has chosen to invite onto his show, and to whom he has lent his megaphone?
The Huffington Post took a look some of the bombastic host's past guests and found names steeped in controversy. Beck has hosted, and even occasionally praised, a renowned white supremacist, a devout southern secessionist, a defender of slavery, and a 9/11 skeptic.
On October 4, 2007, for instance, Beck had on his CNN/Headline News show Michael Hill, the founder and president of the League of the South, and Thomas Naylor, a secessionist who is head of the Second Vermont Republic. The conversation, which centered on dissolving the government, was at times, contentious. But Beck - for all the pushback he offered - did acknowledge that he was kind of intrigued. "Don`t get me wrong," he said. "There`s part of me that says, mm-hmm."
Hill's League of the South (LOS) group is a decidedly white supremacist organization, arguing that the "Anglo-Celtic" culture of the South must be protected and insisting that "white men" must "shed the guilt heaped upon them by their opponents and defend their interests." The group has questioned "what sort of ammunition is being given to black 'racists' by the media's skewed coverage of interracial crimes." Hill himself has been quoted as saying, "Let us not flinch when our enemies call us, 'Racists;' rather, just reply with, 'So, what's your point?'''
Hill wasn't the only Beck guest with LOS ties. Beck has also given airtime to Tom Woods, a historian and economic theorist who was present at the group's founding. Woods was just 21 years old at the time and insists that he is no longer a member. But even those who have accepted those explanations say he harbors radical, pro-Confederate views.
In his book, "Politically Incorrect Guide to the American History," Woods wrote that "strictly speaking, there was never an American Civil War...Other, more ideologically charged (but nevertheless much more accurate) names for the conflict include the War for Southern Independence and even the War for Northern Aggression."
"Woods clearly wants to tender a neo-Confederate interpretation, in which slavery is shunted into the background as a motive for southern secession," wrote Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, a San Diego University Professor who reviewed the book for the Journal of Libertarian Studies.
Nevertheless, Woods has appeared twice on Beck's radio program and three times on his Fox News show. When Beck was out with appendicitis last week, Woods was on with fill-in host, Judge Andrew Napolitano, to discuss his new book, "Meltdown." He's regarded so highly by the program that Beck has asked him to write for his newsletter "because I think you've got it down," Beck said.
Another Beck guest with a controversial past is Larry Pratt, the president of Gun Owners of America. Pratt appeared on the Fox News program on February 16, 2009.
A Second-Amendment rights enthusiast, Pratt may be best known for being forced to resign as co-chair of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign because of ties to white supremacist and extremist groups. The same year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Pratt was contributing to an anti-Semitic periodical titled "United Sovereigns of America." Gun Owners of America, meanwhile, was discovered donating money to a white supremacist attorney's group.
Nevertheless, he was warmly greeted on the show by Beck, who promptly complimented him for his "dream marriage" because neither he nor his wife exchanged Valentine's Day cards.
Roy Beck, the founder and president of NumbersUSA -- and no relation -- has appeared with Beck three times, including one appearance just over two weeks ago. According to SPLC, Roy Beck "is the Washington editor of The Social Contract, a quarterly journal that has published articles by 'white nationalists' like Samuel Francis, who was fired from the conservative Washington Times after writing a racially inflammatory column, and James Lubinskas, a contributing editor for the racist American Renaissance magazine."
Finally, there is Charles Goyette, a self-described Independent and popular Phoenix-based radio host, who appeared as a guest on Beck's October 12, 2009, Fox News program. Goyette would be non-controversial except for the fact that months earlier, on his own program, he said that the official story behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks is "worse than Swiss cheese." Beck, of course, memorably pilloried Van Jones for putting his name on a petition that questioned whether 9/11 was a government conspiracy.
If Beck were a self-avowed journalist -- which he's not -- these guests could be chalked up as an effort to foster intriguing debate, whether about immigration policy, constitutional principles or the strength of the dollar. But, taken as a whole, the roster reflects the host's partiality to an ideology that is far-right if not outright extremist.
Beck himself has argued that one must "step back and look at the big picture" if one wants to understand philosophical motives.
After repeated requests for response by the Huffington Post, Beck's production company declined comment for this article.
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