Glenn Beck's revisionist history of Glenn Beck

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In case you missed it the other day, on his Fox News program Glenn Beck linked health care reform to 9-11, likening legislation designed to better the lives of Americans to a fuel-laden passenger jet striking the World Trade Center, and casting himself, as the leader of his 9-12 cult, as the only person standing in the way of disaster.

It's the type of deluded and offensive narcissism that we've come to expect from Beck, and normally I wouldn't have given it a whole lot of thought afterwards, but something else caught my ear in the middle of Beck's rant as he tried to cast himself as some sort of latter-day Cassandra whose prophetic warnings about bin Laden fell on deaf ears: "In the 1990s, I was on the radio warning people about Osama bin Laden, not because I was some super-smart genius. I just listened to the man's words. I really believed him. But that wasn't the top of the priority list in America -- no, no, no. We were dealing with the fat interns and the definition of is, and I like the rest of America went back to sleep on the terrorist threat."

It just so happens that Glenn Beck has on his website a section called "Classic Beck," which contains selected audio recordings of Beck's radio programs going back several years. One of those recordings is from August 22, 1998, and is described as follows: "Glenn debuts on the WABC in New York City. Glenn discusses the recent U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan and if the American people are ready for the upcoming War on Terrorism." And it just so happens that near the beginning of this recording, Beck comments on Osama bin Laden:

BECK: Now, another newspaper in Pakistan says that it received a statement for the--from the spokesperson for Azma bin Ladin [sic]. Is that is name? Bin Ladin? Bin Ladeen? Bin jelly bean, green bean, Mr. Clean? I love him. He's hot. He says he's ready for war with the U.S. Oh yes? Thank you Mr. Baked Bean.

A respected newspaper quotes the statement as follows: "The war has just started, and Americans should wait for the answer." Now, Mr. Ozma Dig-my-scene, I don't even know what the question was! Was the question "is my turban on too tight?" Yes! I think it is. The blood's not pumping around the whole brain. Loosen the turban, Mr. Clean, dig my scene. Oh yes, let's look at the latrine.

Does this sound like Beck was "warning" about bin Laden and taking his words seriously? Now, consider the time period - it's late August 1998, just a few weeks after the Al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and President Clinton just launched cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation. If there was ever a time in the '90s when terrorism was the focus of America's attention, this was it. And Glenn Beck, debuting on WABC, used that time to make silly jokes about bin Laden's name and dismiss his threats as a symptom of an overly tight turban.

But the Glenn Beck of August 1998 doesn't jibe with the Glenn Beck of 2009, who desperately wants to be taken seriously as the last remaining bulwark against the rising tide of socialism or fascism or statism or whatever. So Beck simply rewrote his own history. Ironically, it was the actual historical records that Beck maintains on his own website that undermined his attempt at revisionism.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
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