In a September 26 article, The News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, reported that while Glenn Beck "has plainly called" his mother's 1979 drowning "a suicide," her "death unfolds more as a mystery in interviews and records," and "news accounts from the time, interviews and official records obtained by The News Tribune largely describe the death of Mary Beck as an accident." McClatchy owns The News Tribune and republished the article.
From the News Tribune article:
On May 15, 1979, boaters found the body of Beck's 41-year-old divorcée mother, Mary, floating about two miles north of the Asarco smelter at Ruston.
A day later, the body of the man who reportedly had taken Beck's mother fishing was found washed ashore near Vashon Island's Tahlequah Ferry Dock. The man's small boat also was found beached at Maury Island, with a small dog, personal items and an empty bottle of booze inside.
Years later, during his radio and television broadcasts and in interviews, Beck consistently has described his mother's death as a suicide, part of a running thread in the fabric of his personal story of salvation - the hallmark of his broadcasts. Beck's stepbrother also killed himself, Beck has said.
"My mom wasn't mother of the year," Beck told his audience last year. "My mother, my mother had real deep, deep problems. She was doing her best, but she left the family to deal with suicide when I was 13 years old."
Beck has said that, like his mother, he has battled chemical addiction and nearly killed himself, too - until finding redemption through, among other things, Alcoholics Anonymous and Mormonism.
But a recent report in Salon Magazine questioned Beck's version of his mother's death, stirring anger among Beck's followers.
Now, news accounts from the time, interviews and official records obtained by The News Tribune largely describe the death of Mary Beck as an accident.
"It was determined that (Mary Beck) appeared to be a classic drowning victim," a Tacoma police report on her death investigation states.
"There were no obvious injuries on the exterior of the body and at this point there is no reason to believe that this was anything other than an accidental drowning."
Yet the report added that Coast Guard officials theorized Beck's mother also could have jumped overboard.
Beck, who has talked generally about his mother's death on the air and in interviews but has provided few details, this week declined The News Tribune's request for an interview.
Though Mary Beck's son has plainly called it a suicide, her death unfolds more as a mystery in interviews and records.
According to the Salon story, Beck has said in at least one interview that his mother left a brief suicide note the morning of her death. Beck's father did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
Beck's family did not discuss his mother's death, and neither did he - until years later, when he broached the subject live on the air, according to the St. Petersburg Times profile. His current wife first heard Beck describe his mother's death as a suicide while listening to the broadcast, the story said.
Washington state death certificates show the cause of both deaths as drowning, with Carroll's death ruled an accident and Mary Beck's as "probable accidental."
Although most of the Tacoma police investigation report also describes the deaths as accidental, it offered one other possible explanation:
"Coast Guardsman theorize that Mrs. Beck, who had a history of heart problems and also was thought to be having a nervous breakdown, might have fallen overboard or jumped overboard," the report says, adding that "Carroll attempted to save her and the result being both victims drowning."
The News Tribune article follows a September 21 Salon.com article that reported on the subject:
Early one morning in May 1979, a 41-year-old divorcee named Mary Beck went boating in Washington's Puget Sound. Her companions on the expedition were a retired papermaker named Orean Carrol, whose boat she helped launch near the Tacoma suburb of Puyallup, and Carrol's pet dog. Exactly what happened next remains shrouded in morning mist, but among the crew, only the dog would survive the day. The boat was recovered late that afternoon adrift near Vashon Island, just north of Tacoma. It was empty but for two wallets and the frightened animal. Mary Beck's body was discovered floating fully clothed nearby. Carrol's corpse washed ashore at the Vashon ferry terminal the following morning.
The county coroner found no evidence of violence on either body. Police investigators told Tacoma's News Tribune that the double drowning appeared to be a classic man-overboard mishap -- a failed rescue attempt in which both parties perished.
At the time of Beck's death, she held custody of her 15-year-old son, Glenn, with whom she had moved to Puyallup. She had left her estranged husband William behind in Mt. Vernon, Wash., another small city 100 miles due north. After producing two daughters and a son, the Becks' marriage had collapsed in 1977 under the weight of Mary's chemical addictions and manic fits of depression. It was in the two years bridging this divorce and his mother's drowning that a teenage Glenn Beck launched one of the most bizarre and unlikely careers in the history of American broadcasting.
Since launching his talk radio career in the late '90s, Beck has constructed a persona anchored in a biography of struggle and redemption. It is a narrative with shades of another haunted Washingtonian who found entertainment fame, Kurt Cobain. Both men hailed from broken homes in the drizzly Pacific Northwest. Both men would find youthful fortune behind microphones while struggling with drugs, prescribed and recreational. Both would contemplate suicide before their tethers finally snapped in 1994. That year Cobain would wrap his mouth around a loaded shotgun. Beck, after contemplating doing the same while listening to a Nirvana album, would not.
Over the course of many retellings, the tragedy of Mary Beck would become the cornerstone event in her son's personal narrative of redemption, and that tale of rebirth would became the cornerstone of his career. But the story Glenn Beck often tells about his mother is not quite the one recorded by the Tacoma paper. As Beck would later relate to millions of his listeners, his mother's drowning was no boating accident. It was a suicide, he claimed, explained in a short note written on that fateful dawn and left on the mantel. And he said it happened in 1977, when he was 13, not 1979, when he was 15 (even though newspaper obits and government records confirm that a 41-year-old woman named Mary Beck died in Puyallup in 1979.) In fact, Beck's first wife had never heard of Mary Beck's alleged suicide until years after they married, when she heard her husband discussing it live on the radio.
Whether or not some of its details are reliable, the story of how Glenn Beck the teenage DJ became Glenn Beck the cultural phenomenon has both political and personal significance. But is Beck's journey conservatism's post-millennial crack-up writ small, complete with a preference for faith over fact? Is it simply a classic showbiz success story? Or, as Beck and his loyal legions would have it, is it a tale of resurrection, of a born-again patriot rescued from nihilism and now destined to save America from liberalism?
From Glenn Beck's Arguing with Idiots, p. 225:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"He was elected four times, obviously he was popular!"
FDR is anpther president who is inexplicably ranked near the top of many "best presidents ever" polls. The fact that he is the only president to ever be elected four times is oft cited as proof of his popularity, and popularity, as we all know, always equals competence.
A.D.D. Moment: Saddam Hussein was elected a lot of times too.
A.D.D. Moment: Did I just use the word "oft"? Wow, I really need to stop reading history books.
Last week, former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough denounced Glenn Beck:
SCARBOROUGH: You cannot say that the president of the United States, Mike Barnicle, hates all white people. You cannot call the president of the United States a racist. You cannot wallow in conspiracy theories as he did for about a month, suggesting that FEMA might be setting up concentration camps and going on Fox & Friends and saying, "I can't disprove it," and then wait a month. You can't stir up that type of hatred -- calling the president a racist.
I know how these stories end. I always know how they end -- and I'm talking to you Mitt Romney, and I'm talking to anybody who wants to be president in 2012. You need to call out this type of hatred, because it always blows up in your face.
Now that Scarborough has discovered the danger of the far-right extremism on display on Fox News, maybe it's time he apologize to Paul Krugman?
See, back in June, Krugman wrote that "right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment" and went on to state that "the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. ... have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House."
That led Scarborough to lash out: "Paul Krugman, like a lot of I would say extremists on the right, they only see their side. They have a close-minded worldview."
Well, Scarborough's comments last week look an awful lot like Krugman's from June, don't they?
Come to think of it, this would probably be a good time for Scarborough to apologize for his misinformation about that DHS report on far-right extremists, too.
So, let me get this straight: CBS Early Show host Harry Smith interviewed Ann Coulter after she called him "certifiably insane" -- but the morning show has allegedly cancelled a scheduled Michael Moore appearance out of fear that he will criticize CBS?
Moore explains, via Twitter: "Backlash Begins: CBS has cancelled me on its Mon. morning show. After I criticized ABC/Disney on GMA, they didn't want me to do same to CBS."
Like clockwork, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt joins the parade of journalists buying into the right-wing attacks that because they were supposedly slow to cover the Most Important Story in the World (that would be ACORN, of course) that means they demonstrate liberal bias.
Like Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander and others who have recently taken up this theme, Hoyt manages to get through an entire column about the possibility that the Times is biased in favor of liberals without ever once mentioning the paper's coverage of the 2000 election or the run-up to the Iraq war, to pick just two of the most obvious counter-examples.
And like Alexander, Hoyt manages to avoid quoting or paraphrasing anyone arguing against the premise that the media in general and the Times in particular suffer from "liberal bias."
Hoyt does, however, break a bit of news:
Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was "slow off the mark," and blamed "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio." She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person "a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere."
A few years ago, the New York Times created a conservative beat -- a reporter assigned full-time to reporting on the conservative movement (the paper didn't bother assigning anyone to cover the progressive movement.) Now, in response to right-wing whining, they're assigning an editor to brief them regularly on Glenn Beck's latest ravings. I'm sure that will make for some excellent journalism.
Hoyt's column ends with a quote from Pew's Tom Rosenstiel:
Rosenstiel said The Times has a particular problem with conservatives, especially after its article last year suggesting that John McCain had an extramarital affair. And Republicans earlier this year charged that the paper killed a story about Acorn that would have been a "game changer" in the presidential election - a claim I found to be false.
"If you know you are a target, it requires extra vigilance," Rosenstiel said. "Even the suspicion of a bias is a problem all by itself."
This is mind-blowingly clueless. The suspicion of bias will never go away. These efforts to bend over backwards to appease the Right -- people who will never be appeased -- no matter how ridiculous their complaints, in which newspapers like the Times fret over the suspicion of bias regardless of the merits of the complaint, are exactly how the paper ends up handing a presidential election to George W. Bush -- and then handing him his Iraq war on a platter.
And the idea that conservatives have "particular" reason to dislike the Times because of an article that may have implied John McCain had an affair is laugh-out-loud funny. I seem to have some vague memory of the Times suggesting a certain Democratic president was less-than-faithful -- and doing so more directly and more frequently than anything the Times published about John McCain. I seem to remember the Times -- a decade later -- trying to tally up the number of times the Clintons slept together in a given month, a task they never undertook with John McCain.
And conservatives have "particular" reason to dislike the Times because it ignored an election-year story about ACORN? Come. On. After what the New York Times did to Al Gore during the 2000 election -- making up a quote Gore never said in order to accuse him of being a liar was only the most sensational of the paper's offenses -- you have to be completely clueless to think conservatives have "particular" reason to distrust the paper's campaign coverage.
Oh, and there's still the little matter of the Iraq war. The Times implied John McCain was having an affair? Well, boo hoo. Thousands of Americans have died in an unnecessary war in part because the Times was insufficiently critical of the Bush administration's Iraq claims.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: The news media's disparate treatment of media critiques from the Left and from the Right pretty much disproves the idea of "liberal bias." If they really were biased in favor of liberals, liberal concerns about their coverage of huge matters like Iraq and Gore/Bush would get far more play than conservative complaints about whether an article about ACORN should have come a week earlier.
A school for kindergartners through second-graders in a comfortable Philadelphia suburb has become the latest target of accusations by conservatives that schoolchildren are being indoctrinated to idolize President Barack Obama.
If Michelle Maklin and Glenn Beck and the usual band of jokers created a "controversy" in which they claimed Obama was going to demand the first-born child from each U.S. home, would the AP type that up as news, as well? Meaning, is that any hate-filled charge of fiction that the right-wing will launch against this White House that the press won't treat as being newsworthy?
And note how the AP's Mulvihill plays monumentally dumb about the previous "controversy" about Obama addressing school children nationwide:
The notion that schoolchildren are being subjected to partisan politics rather than taught civics emerged earlier this month before an Obama speech to students was played in thousands of schools.
Left out of the AP report was the fact that those charges were absolutely absurd and that nobody on the planet who heard Obama's speech about exceling in the classrooom thought it was partisan or trying to "indoctrinate" anyone. For some reason, the AP, propping up the latest nonsense about "indoctrination," forgot to mention that right-wing hysterics over Obama's school speech were completely unfounded.
Last point: the AP actually quotes Malkin's blog regarding the school "controversy" as a news source, which is pretty hilarious since a couple weeks ago Malkin's right-wing "news" source claimed 2 million people showed up for an anti-Obama rally in Washington, D.C.
Media Matters for America recently released a report documenting the obsessive attention Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck have devoted to ACORN -- due, of course, to their self-professed determination to expose taxpayer-funded waste, fraud, and abuse wherever it appears. As such, Media Matters compared the focus each host's television programs have given to the story with their coverage of well-documented political scandals involving Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney, as well as massive corruption scandals engulfing Halliburton, Blackwater, and KBR -- corporations which have received thousands of times more money from the government than ACORN ever has.
The results were shocking: taken together, Beck and Hannity have been approximately 35 times more likely to reference ACORN than any of the military contractors, and 24 times more likely to reference ACORN than either Abramoff or Ney.
This is agenda-driven journalism at its worst -- and it's nothing new. An impressive study by the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College has taken an even broader view of how ACORN has been portrayed in recent years, starting in 2006 and going through the 2008 presidential election. Rachel Maddow discussed it last night.
Among the study's conclusions (emphasis added):
The attacks on ACORN originated with business groups and political groups that opposed ACORN's organizing work around living wages, predatory lending, and registration of low-income and minority voters. These groups created frames to discredit ACORN that were utilized by conservative "opinion entrepreneurs" within the conservative "echo chamber" -- publications, TV and radio talk shows, blogs and websites, think tanks, and columnists -- to test, refine, and circulate narrative frames about ACORN. These conservative "opinion entrepreneurs" were successful in injecting their perspective on ACORN into the mainstream media.
What was the substance of the anti-ACORN campaign? If you had heard anything about ACORN before Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe burst on the scene, you had probably also heard that the group was guilty of systematic (and pro-Obama) voter fraud -- itself a fraudulent story line. From the Occidental study (emphasis added):
The mainstream news media failed to fact-check persistent allegations of "voter fraud" despite the existence of easily available countervailing evidence. The media also failed to distinguish allegations of voter registration problems from allegations of actual voting irregularities. They also failed to distinguish between allegations ofwrongdoing and actual wrongdoing.
More specifically, the Occidental study revealed that:
And perhaps most importantly:
It sounds familiar, doesn't it? The conservative media's coverage of the newest ACORN "scandal" has been defined by politically motivated journalistic malpractice, and once again, too many mainstream outlets have fallen in line, taking their cues from Fox instead of examining the story in a responsible way.
It's obvious that the right-wing media, and Fox in particular, will do anything it can to turn ACORN into a never-ending source of anti-progressive invective. But it remains the mainstream media's duty to serve as more than just a handmaiden for this conservative crusade. It may have failed before, but it owes it to the country not to fail again.
This A1 article is getting lots of attention, and fits in nicely with the Beltway's preferred Dems-are-in-big-trouble narrative:
Democrats Are Jarred by Drop In Fundraising
That's the headline. Should we count the problems with Paul Kane's article?
First, there's not one Democrat quoted in the Post piece who is "jarred" by the drop in fundraising, or anything like it. The Post simply makes that announcement itself. In fact, some Democrats quoted seem to suggest it was inevitable that a fall-off would occur given the historic amount of money the party raised during Obama's run. i.e. Don't fundraising tallies, even for committees that oversee Congressional races, often drop after presidential election year cycles, which now last two years long, including the primary season?
Yet Kane spends almost his entire article comparing fundraising tallies collected immediatialy after a presidential compaign, with tallies collected during one. Pretty obvious apples and oranges, no?
Then there's this graphic the Post used to show just how supposedly jarring the drop-off has been for Democrats.
Note there is no accompanying chart for GOP efforts so it's difficult for readers to get a sense of how the two parties compare. But also notice that through August of 2009, Democratic fundraising was up significantly as compared to the first eight months in 2005. (Despite that, the Post calls the Dems' 2009 efforts "poor.") So if you take out the most recent presidential cycle, Dems are raising more money than in 2005. Again, perhaps that's why the Post could find any Democrats who are "jarred."
And then there's this. The Post leans heavily on the idea that because furndraising in 2009 is down from 2007, that means big trouble for 2010's off-year, midterm showdown with the GOP:
Large-scale defeats in the midterms could be a crippling blow to the ambitious agenda mapped out by Obama's top advisers, particularly if they happen in the Senate, where Democrats caucus with a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority. The party will have to work furiously to defend at least six Senate seats and as many as 40 in the House, including many snatched from Republicans.
But back to that fundraising graph. Note again that Democrats are ahead of where they were in 2005, the lead-in year to the 2006 off-yeare midterm contests. And what happened in the 2006 midterms? Democrats scored huge wins over the GOP. So see the problem with the Post's analysis? The paper claims Dems are down in fundraising this years which could mean a problems for the off-year midterm contests. When in fact, Dems are ahead of their last off-year mid-term tallies, when Dems won big.
UPDATED: Another glaring problem with Kane's reporting:
Democratic political committees have seen a decline in their fundraising fortunes this year, a result of complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party's harsh rhetoric about big business.
That's the lede and it contains a sweeping assertion that there's "boycott" among the bigbest Dem donors. Wow, that seems like a big deal. How exactly does Kane back up that controversial assertion? Like this:
Other Democrats and their aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party strategy, said that rhetoric toward big business has grown so antagonistic that it has become increasingly difficult to raise money on Wall Street, particularly after the controversy about bonuses and executive compensation.
Good grief. Does that very vague, very general reporting from Kane, based on off-the-record comments, in any way support his earlier, definitive claim that there's a donor boycott--a Democratic backlash--because of anti-big business rhetoric? Not even close. In the lede, Kane reports there's a "boycott" due to the rhetoric. Later in the piece Kane reports it's "difficult" to raise money from Wall Street due to the rhetoric. Which is it?
And where exactly is this populist, Democratic crusade against big business coming from? The Obama White House and Congressional leaders have been bashing corporate America this year? I must have missed it. And Kane includes no quotes to highlight the supposed push.
Kane does interview one wealthy private investor and longtime Democratic supporter. But the donor makes no mention of anti-big business rhetoric as the reason some donors may have stopped writing checks.