On Friday, the radio and online host Glenn Beck arrived at the annual RedState Gathering with some hard lessons for conservatives. He could not vote for Donald Trump. He had interviewed the independent #NeverTrump candidate, Evan McMullin, and found him too "squishy." Despondent about the choice that faced voters, he had begun seriously "soul-searching" and investigating what he did not know about America.
"You can't be as universally disliked as I am, and not do some soul-searching," said Beck at a news conference before his speech in Denver. "Well, unless you're Donald Trump."
Among Beck's revelations was that the Black Lives Matter movement had a point. Beck, like many conservatives, had criticized the movement as racist and exclusionary. He had led a march in Birmingham, Ala., on the theme of "All Lives Matter." His news site, The Blaze, had written dutifully about well-meaning people who said "All Lives Matter" and were hounded by the politically correct mob.
But since the police shootings in Dallas, where his programs are recorded, Beck had come to view "Black Lives Matter" differently.
"All of us are sitting around a table, and we're all friends," he said. "It's time for dessert, and everybody gets pie except for me and you. And you say, 'I didn't get any pie.' Everybody at the table looks at you and says 'I know. All pie matters.' You say, 'but I don't have any pie! What about my pie?'"
Beck's point was that white Americans simply did not understand what black people had been saying about police in America.
The "leaders" of the movement, he said, were "communists and anti-capitalists" whom he could never agree with. "But they're not the people walking behind them in the street," he said. "We're all speaking different languages and we need to talk to each other."
Later, from the stage, Beck told the "All Pies Matter" fable again, asking hundreds of conservatives to look past their earlier disgust for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the room, Beck was well received. (The only tumult in the audience came when he criticized Trump, and two conference attendees squabbled before being told to stop.) In an interview with NPR, he repeated the same message.
But on Sunday, Beck's appeal crashed into the reality of conservative media coverage of police-involved shootings. Riots broke out in Milwaukee after a shooting; The Drudge Report focused on the harm some rioters caused to white people, while Beck was condemned by Breitbart News for preemptively excusing them.
"While Glenn Beck would like people to believe he’s insightful, critics of Black Lives Matter don’t need his hectoring," wrote Breitbart's Lee Stranahan, who is also based in Dallas. "The reason many people — including black critics of Black Lives Matter like [Milwaukee County] Sheriff David Clarke — say 'All Lives Matter' in response to 'Black Lives Matter' is to reject the underlying notion of identity politics."
Beck had returned to his show, which if it did not adopt that take on Milwaukee would stand out on conservative talk radio. He was ready for that. In Denver, he criticized Trump for inciting crowds to boo the media and chant "lock 'em up" at the candidate's behest.
"Now, what law has the press broken?" Beck asked. "Is there a law that you can't have a different opinion? Is there a law that your newspaper, your television station, can't have an agenda? When people start shouting, 'put the press in jail,' we're in deep, deep trouble. The press doesn't know who the people are. The candidates don't know who the people are."