Bombastic Beck busts out

The Fox News conservative commentator exhorted a sprawling crowd on the Mall on Saturday to restore the traditional American value of honor.
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 11:39 AM

When I interviewed Glenn Beck two years ago, I told him that I found his remarks about the first Muslim member of Congress "horribly offensive."

He had informed Minnesota's Keith Ellison during an interview that "what I feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."

Beck, who was then with Headline News, said on my CNN program: "I apologize for a poorly worded question. However, I think we're all living in denial if we are really saying to each other that a world that we live in now, where we can't -- where we have to shut up because of political correctness and we can't say Muslim extremists are bad, 10 percent of Islam is extreme and want to kill us."

Artfully done: back off from the insulting wording but not from the larger charge. Beck also told me: "I want people to know I don't take myself that seriously. I want you to know I'm a rodeo clown. I want you to know I'm conservative and I'm not a journalist."

Well, he seems to be taking himself a lot more seriously these days, calling for a religious revival and drawing anywhere from 90,000 to 500,000 people to the Mall, depending on whose estimates you believe. And here's the thing: For all the criticism that Beck was dishonoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with his 8/28 rally, there was virtually nothing said at that event that was objectionable. (Unless you're an atheist. Beck made no attempt to include non-believers with all the God talk, though, as a Mormon, he was not specific about church matters.)

In that sense, he confounded his critics. And the next day, with his Fox News colleague Chris Wallace, he backed off his most notorious statement, that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people and the white culture" -- using the same self-deprecating tactic he used with me.

"It was poorly said. It was -- I have a big, fat mouth sometimes and I say things, and that's just not the way people should behave. And it was not accurate."

But he substituted the charge that Obama believes in black liberation theology and that people don't recognize the president's version of Christianity.

For all Beck's talk about how he's just a recovering alcoholic who hit bottom and has pulled himself back up, there was this exchange:

WALLACE: Do you feel that you have a role in trying to save this country?

BECK: You don't?

WALLACE: No, I just ask questions for a living.

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