Profile of public relations guru Matt Hiltzik, a former Democratic operative
A few weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, Glenn Beck, a young Tampa-based disc jockey eager to break into conservative talk radio, called his new Manhattan agent, George Hiltzik, to help arrange a visit to Ground Zero. Hiltzik directed Beck to his 29-year-old son, Matt, who had returned to his job with the TriBeCa-based studio head Harvey Weinstein after playing a key role in electing Hillary Rodham Clinton to the U.S. Senate.
"I wasn't aware of all his positions at the time," Hiltzik said of Beck's enthusiastic conservative views. "I knew he was not, like, a big Democrat."
To say the least.
In the years since their first encounter, Beck has become arguably the most influential and incendiary conservative critic in America. He has called President Obama a racist, compared him to Hitler and forced the firing of administration appointees. This month, the White House retaliated against Beck's outlet, Fox News Channel, but the resulting controversy has only boosted Beck's notoriety, which, is Hiltzik's professional concern.
"My job is to look out for his personal business interests and try to weave them in well with his partners'," said Hiltzik, whose boutique PR firm, Hiltzik Strategies, has represented Beck since 2007. "We give strategic counsel, which includes managing the profile of the business."
"When I'm picking politicians, employees or business partners, I focus on their character not their political parties," Beck said in a statement. "And I know and trust Matthew's character."
The close friendship and lucrative business relationship that has developed between the 45-year-old conservative firebrand and the 37-year-old former Democratic operative shows how partisan media personalities get discovered, promoted and catapulted into the political stratosphere, even when the talent and the talent broker have opposing ideologies. But for Hiltzik's former Democratic allies, the alliance is still mostly shocking.
"It's surprising," said Bill de Blasio, who ran Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign, for which Hiltzik served as the go-to liaison to New York's Jewish community. "He worked for the state Democratic Party, he worked for Hillary Clinton in 2000, he is as solid a Democrat as you can imagine."
Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who benefited from Hiltzik's help in his 1998 breakthrough win to become attorney general, was astonished that the guy he knew as his state party's lead spokesman was now representing the man some in the White House see as Public Enemy No. 1.
Spitzer called Hiltzik a friend and "a thoughtful, reasoned advocate -- certainly at the time -- for the Democratic principles that I was running on and that most of my colleagues believed in."
Other Hiltzik allies resort to strange-bedfellow teasing. "Everyone knows they're dating," joked Harvey Weinstein, who called his former right hand a deeply religious, brilliant guy. "It must be that kind of attraction. I can't see any other reason."
His voice turning more serious, Weinstein said there was perhaps a simple reason Hiltzik felt comfortable representing Beck. "I had a lot of actors Matt came in contact with," Weinstein said. "I just think Glenn is another one."