If Bill O'Reilly has the "no-spin zone," Glenn Beck seems to have the "sponsor-free zone" of late. In fact, at least 62 companies have ceased advertising on his Fox News program in recent weeks.
It all started at the end of July when Beck, appearing on Fox & Friends, said President Obama had "exposed himself as a guy" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people." After the conservative morning show's co-host Brian Kilmeade uncharacteristically pushed back, Beck reversed himself saying, "I'm not saying he doesn't like white people," before dropping the race hammer once again, accusing the president outright of being a "racist."
The racially provocative comments were nothing new for Beck. Just days before making his controversial "racist" charge against Obama, Beck explained that the "thinking" behind the president's agenda "including this health care bill" was centered on "one idea": "reparations" and his desire to "settle old racial scores."
Beck's most recent racially charged attack on Obama led ColorOfChange.org -- which "exists to strengthen Black America's political voice" -- to take action encouraging the Fox News host's sponsors to stop running ads on his program. As a result, tuning into Glenn Beck these days you're more likely to see ads from companies that are more at home during a 3 a.m. rerun of Golden Girls than a 5 p.m. cable news broadcast. It's out with name-brand companies like GEICO, Mercedes-Benz, AT&T, and Bank of America, and it's in with IRS counseling services, water filtration systems and, of course, convicted Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy's great deals for the savvy gold investor.
It's become quite clear that advertisers looking for ways to reach Beck's audience may have better luck with cave drawings lest they end up on ColorOfChange.org's radar.
Faced with an onslaught of criticism over Beck's comments, Fox News did its best disavowal/non-disavowal -- a sort of spin-astics, if you will. Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming at Fox News, distanced the conservative network from the "racist" remark saying, "Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel," before defending the talker's right to say whatever offensive drivel pops into his buzz-cut head. Yep, he just as easily could have said, "he can say anything he wants on our network no matter how vile but, uhh, we won't necessarily agree with him."
I suppose Fox News' position on the subject makes sense. After all, if it punished Beck for this comment, just imagine what it would have to do with the positively loony things that come out of Beck's mouth week after week.
The Fox News strategy seems pretty simple: Keep a low profile and hope that the advertisers return to Beck's broadcast sometime down the road once the controversy has died down. The network sees Beck as its slow-yielding though highly profitable cash crop. All it has to do is remain patient.
Let's be honest, Beck's show is a bit like watching NASCAR. Sure, a lot of people tune in for the race, but there's a healthy chunk of the audience just waiting for a crash. As his sponsors have jumped ship, his audience has grown quite a bit, no doubt fueled by the controversy. Few cable hosts play the victim role with Beck's aplomb. Fewer still would have the cajones to beg their audience to have friends tune into the show, which, incidentally, is precisely what Beck recently did.
In the interim, Beck's unique brand of crazy paranoia and baseless attacks on the Obama administration continue unabated.
His conspiracy theory du jour seems more likely ripped from the pages of a Hollywood screenplay than any semblance of reality. Perhaps you hadn't heard Beck's crack "reporting" about President Obama's secret plan to build a "civilian national security force," which of course is "what Hitler did with the SS" -- Beck's words. The basis of Beck's latest lapse in sanity comes from the president's goal of expanding the Foreign Service, AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. That Obama is absolutely diabolical. Sigh.
All is not lost, though. Beck's CNN kissing cousin, Lou Dobbs, has come out swinging in his defense, saying the Fox News host's detractors are up in arms "just because he had the guts to say what he meant. You know, there's a shortage of that. That ought to be encouraged." Sage words of support from a fellow conspiracy theorist who has yet to atone for his strange obsession with President Obama's birth certificate.
Ultimately, Glenn Beck has exposed himself as a guy with a "deep-seated hatred" for President Obama. I'm not saying he doesn't like Obama ... well, you get the idea.
Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.