Milbank: Beck "gave legitimacy" to the conspiracy theories of alleged California cop shooter Byron Williams
In a column to be published in Sunday's Washington Post, Dana Milbank reports that Byron Williams, who allegedly shot at California police officers after he was stopped while on his way to kill people at the Tides Foundation and ACLU, received validation for his conspiracy theories from Glenn Beck. Milbank based his column on interviews Williams gave to Examiner.com and Media Matters for America.
From Milbank's column:
Glenn Beck has a friend in California.
"I would've never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there," says this friend, Byron Williams. "And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed, that blew my mind."
"I do enjoy Glenn Beck," Williams also says, "and the reason why I enjoy that is because . . . no other channel will speak about the same things that he's talking about, and if you go and investigate those things you'll find out that they're true."
Unfortunately for Beck, this satisfied viewer currently resides at the Santa Rita Jail near Oakland and stands accused of a freeway shootout with police. Williams pleaded not guilty to four counts of attempted murder of a police officer. But according to court documents, he said he had been on a mission to kill people at the liberal Tides Foundation, which happens to be a favorite Beck target.
In August, I wrote that while it's not fair to blame Beck for violence committed by his fans, he would do well to stop encouraging extremists. Now, Williams has granted a pair of jailhouse interviews, one with the conservative Examiner.com and one to be published soon by the liberal group Media Matters. These recorded exchanges, which I have reviewed, show precisely why Beck is dangerous: because his is the one voice in the mass media that validates conspiracy theories held by the unstable.
Milbank later added:
Williams, as you'd expect, is not an entirely reliable witness. At one point he complains that Beck "criticizes all the conspiracy theories," but at other points he hails Beck for embracing them. Still, this part rings true: The prisoner told the Examiner that he already knew about Tides before he heard Beck speak about it in June; rather, "to me it was more of a confirmation of what I already knew," he said.
Exactly. Beck, who has encouraged his followers to hear what he is saying "between the sentences" he actually utters, gave legitimacy to Williams's conspiracy theories.
Click here for an audio preview of Williams' interview with Media Matters.