The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz Monday describes Fox News a "a network divided" over its most recent star, Glenn Beck.
Kurtz reports there is a "deep split within Fox" over Beck: one one side, led by network chief Roger Ailes, are those supportive of Beck's meteoric rise; on the other, his detractors, who Kurtz describes as "journalists who are worried about the prospect that Beck is becoming the face of the network."
The internal tension has grown to such an extent, Kurtz writes, that "some of [Fox's] journalists celebrated the failure of last week's interview with embattled ex-congressman Eric Massa." Beck himself declared that hour a waste of his viewers' time.
In January, Beck was said to be causing angst among Bill O'Reilly's camp (although the pair has been traveling together on tour).
Fox News staffers also complained to Kurtz that Beck's emotional outbursts might be staged:
Some staffers say they have watched rehearsals, on internal monitors, in which Beck has teared up or paused at the same moments as he later did during the show. Asked about this, [Chris Balfe, president of Beck's company, Mercury Radio Arts] responded sharply: "Glenn reacts the same way to issues whether he knows people are watching or not, and is proud to show his emotions, unlike the cowardly, two-faced critics who hide behind anonymity."
What is clear, however, is that Ailes is firmly behind Beck. Kurtz writes that Beck "sometimes seeks Ailes' advice," and Mercury Radio president Chris Baife said Ailes is the reason Beck joined Fox News from HLN.
Fox News Senior Vice President Bill Shine acknowledged that Beck's controversial views could pose problems for the network's hard news journalists, telling Kurtz, "sometimes it might make their job a little more difficult." But he said that controversy is par for course at Fox News:
"I don't perceive it to be a problem. . . . Glenn Beck is popular and controversial? Well, almost everybody here has been popular or controversial at some point in the last 13 years."
Also of note in Beck's relationship with the network: Fox management put up "strong resistance" to O'Reilly and Beck's joint tour; the network opposed his appearance on Jay Leno's show, which eventually occurred in December; and executives were "rankled last week when Beck spent two minutes of airtime to promote his one-man show at Broadway's Nokia Theater on Tuesday."
UPDATE: A Fox News spokesperson has issued the following statement to several outlets:
"Howie's use of anonymous sources is stunning from a paper with the reputation of the Washington Post's. Glenn Beck has the 100% support of Fox News management."
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