Just weeks after Glenn Beck's enormous 8/28 rally in Washington, D.C, the New York Times has published an 8,000-word profile of the Fox News host. Writer Mark Leibovich followed Beck around for several weeks, speaking to his fans and detractors, and interviewing him several times. What Leibovich reveals, says Chris Good at The Atlantic, is "key to understanding what [Beck] is all about." Here are some key takeaways from the article:
Many people at Fox News are embarrassed by Beck
Even though Beck is probably Fox News' biggest name right now, his relations with the network are frayed, discovers Leibovich. Fox News boss Roger Ailes is reportedly displeased at Beck's continuous "hawking [of] his non-Fox ventures" on air, and feels he "does not fully appreciate the degree to which Fox News has made him the sensation he has become." Beck's name tends to provoke "either a sigh or an eyeroll" when mentioned to Fox reporters and staff members. A precipitous fall in his show's ratings, and a boycott by 296 former advertisers haven't helped.
On his TV show, Beck invokes Hitler roughly 9 times a month
Beck's rhetoric is full of "Nazi, Hitler, and Holocaust comparisons," says Leibovitch. How full? The writer quotes a forthcoming book by Washington Post writer Dana Milbank that has discovered "in the first 14 months of Beck’s Fox News show, Beck and his guests mentioned fascism 172 times, Nazis 134 times, Hitler 115 times, the Holocaust 58 times, and Joseph Goebbels eight times." While such comparisons "inevitably offend a lot of people," writes Leibovich, "Beck seems not to care."
He bailed on Yale
The conservative firebrand has founded his own online university, despite never having received a college degree. But that could have been different, says Leibovich. Beck enrolled at Yale when he was in his early 30s, on the back of a recommendation from alumnus Sen. Joe Lieberman, but quickly dropped out. He admits to spending "more time trying to find a parking space" than studying.
His art imitates his life
Leibovich pays a visit to Mercury Studios, from which Beck broadcasts his daily radio show and plans his media operations. The Times writer pays particular attention to the art on its walls. Portraits of Orson Welles, Ronald Reagan, and Walt Disney vie for space with a "massive red-and-blue 'Capitalism' poster ... hand-painted by Beck" himself. The offices "evoke the self-image of a multimedia entrepreneur and would-be titan," writes Leibovich. In the broadcaster's own office, a "yellowed copy of the Boston Post" announcing Woodrow Wilson's death is displayed on the wall. Beck is no fan of the "father of the Progressive Era" — he is quoted saying, "I hate him ... I hate that guy."
He keeps stored food — but doesn't have a bunker
Beck is often teased for his dire prophecies that society is unraveling, says Leibovich. The Fox News host even makes reference to a personal "bunker." But there is no such hidey-hole, Beck reveals in the article. He does keep a "great deal of food in reserve," but insists this is a "tenet of his Mormon faith ... for when tough times come." Asked if he is engaged in survival training, he replies: "No. Should I be? Maybe."
Beck is at war with himself
The central conflict within Beck, says Leibovich, is whether he should be "the face of Honor Restored" or "the voice of a Great American Freakout." He wrote a letter to fellow conservative Sarah Palin recently asking if he was "doing more harm or more good. I don't know any more." Friends say he is terrified of one of his listeners "doing something stupid." He often wears a bulletproof vest, and wants to install a 6-foot barrier around his Connecticut estate. "He is fragile, on the edge," concludes Leibovich. "There is no template for him or where he is headed."