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Ari Rabin-Havt Headshot

How Far Does Beck Have to Go?

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For just over three hours yesterday, I believed a mild dose of sanity had befallen the executives who run Fox News. Michael Calderone reported:

Simon Greer, chief executive of Jewish Funds for Justice, told The Upshot that when Greer approached them, [Fox News President Roger] Ailes and senior vice president Joel Cheatwood agreed that [Glenn] Beck crossed the line in comparing Greer's worldview to that of the Nazis and promised to speak with Beck about the matter.

Two days later, Greer said he received a handwritten letter from Beck.

Three hours and one minute later, Fox disabused me of the notion that they had a scintilla of sanity, morality, or decency, when their Senior Vice President for Development Joel Cheatwood told TVNewser that during the meeting with Greer:

"We absolutely stood behind Glenn Beck 1000%"

The network is standing behind Beck, who said that the head of the Jewish Funds for Justice's statement in support of social justice "is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany." That is what Fox is standing behind -- saying a Jewish leader's rhetoric is what led to "death camps."

Beck demonstrates his complete ignorance of the Judaism, failing to recognize that Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, is an important part of our faith. As Rabbi Marla Feldman writes, "The passion for social justice is reflected in the ancient words of our prophets and sages and in the declarations of our Movement's leaders throughout its history. The ancient command 'Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof! Justice, justice shall you seek!' constantly reverberates in our ears."

Beck's Nazi obsession is nothing new. As Dana Milbank noted, "Consider these tallies from Glenn Beck's show on Fox News since Obama's inauguration: 202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels. Most of these were directed in some form at Obama -- as were the majority of the 802 mentions of socialist or socialism on Beck's nightly 'report.'"

Beck often talks about how progressives have shifted the Overton Window to allow, for example, for the passage of health care reform.

("Joseph Overton observed that in a given public policy area, such as education, only a relatively narrow range of potential policies will be considered politically acceptable. This "window" of politically acceptable options is primarily defined not by what politicians prefer, but rather by what they believe they can support and still win re-election. In general, then, the window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.")

No one has done more to shift the Overton Window of acceptable discourse than Beck himself. His brand of trivializing the horrors of Nazi Germany used to draw swift rebuke. For example, in 2004, when two ads comparing George Bush to Hitler were submitted for a contest held by MoveOn.org, then-RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie called them "the worst and most vile form of political hate speech" and MoveOn.org was widely criticized despite the fact that the ads were created by private citizens, not the organization.

Glenn Beck now gets to compare progressives and progressive policies to the Holocaust almost nightly, on the highest-rated cable news channel in the country, and Fox News does nothing to stop him. In fact, by standing behind him "1000%," they are only encouraging him to go further.

A year ago, Glenn Beck faced a public outcry and more than 100 advertisers left his show when he called President Obama a "racist." Since then numerous conservative media figures have echoed that outrageous charge with limited criticism.

Fox stood behind Beck calling the president a racist, now they're standing behind him when suggesting the long-held beliefs of the Jewish people led to Nazism. How far does he have to go for Fox to rein him in?