Beck defended with falsehoods his earlier remarks that New Orleans Katrina victims were "scumbags," he "hat[ed]" 9-11 victims' families

››› ››› JOE BROWN

New CNN Headline News hire Glenn Beck defended with falsehoods his September 9, 2005, on-air statement that "when I see a 9-11 victim family on TV or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh, shut up!' I'm just so sick of them because they're always complaining." Beck claimed that he was merely drawing an analogy between the 9-11 families "complaining on television" and the looters in New Orleans "that are stealing the televisions" because both groups are "trying to benefit from the tragedy." In fact, Beck did not specifically criticize looters in his 2005 remarks but, rather, referred to "those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay" as "scumbags."

On the May 5 edition of CNN's American Morning, new CNN Headline News hire Glenn Beck defended with falsehoods his September 9, 2005, on-air statement -- first documented by Media Matters for America -- that "when I see a 9-11 victim family on TV or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh, shut up!' I'm just so sick of them because they're always complaining." Beck claimed that, in the context of a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims' families, he was merely drawing an analogy between the 9-11 families "complaining on television" and the looters in New Orleans "that are stealing the televisions" because both groups are "trying to benefit from the tragedy." In fact, in his September 9, 2005, remarks, Beck did not specifically criticize looters; rather, as Media Matters noted, he referred to "those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay" as "scumbags." Beck's daily primetime program is scheduled to debut May 8.

In response to co-host Soledad O'Brien, who displayed a quote of Beck's remarks about 9-11 families and asked him if the "tone" of his Headline News program would be similar, Beck accused O'Brien of taking his remarks "out of context," adding:

BECK: When you look at it in its entire context, what I was saying was in the context of this fundraiser, you have to stop looking at the people who are complaining on television. In Hurricane Katrina, you have to stop looking at the people that are stealing the televisions because that -- those aren't the people. Those aren't real victims here of Hurricane Katrina. Those are the people that are trying to benefit from the tragedy.

But contrary to his claim to O'Brien, in his original remarks -- broadcast remotely from a fundraiser near Philadelphia -- Beck did not single out looters for criticism. Rather, he attacked the "scumbags" who "were left in New Orleans" after Hurricane Katrina or who "decided to stay" because they were "getting all the attention" and "spoiling it for everybody." He likened those left in New Orleans after Katrina to 9-11 victims' families, who are "always complaining on television" and whom he admitted to "hating."

Later during his interview with O'Brien, Beck asserted that although "people who are used to a typical talk show" may find some of his remarks "controversial," such remarks are "cloaked in sarcasm and with comedy" because "I was joking." O'Brien responded by wishing him luck with his new CNN show.

From the September 9, 2005, edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:

BECK: Let me be real honest with you. I don't think anybody on talk radio -- I don't think anybody in their right mind is going to ever say this out loud -- but I wonder if I'm the only one that feels this way. Yesterday, when I saw the ATM cards being handed out, the $2,000 ATM cards, and they were being handed out at the Astrodome. And they actually had to close the Astrodome and seal it off for a while because there was a near-riot trying to get to these ATM cards. My first thought was, you can't just sit down and -- it's not like they're going to run out of the $2,000 ATM cards. You can wait! You know, stand in line. Maybe it's because I'm the kind of guy, when I go to a buffet, I either have to be first in line, or I'm the very last. Because I know there's going to be extra food there, and I just won't stand in the line. I'll wait until all the suckers go get their food, and then I'll go get mine. Or if I'm really hungry, I hate to admit this -- and really, I don't even have to be really hungry. If I'm really being a pig, I will kind of, like, hang out around the buffet table before the line is -- you know, chat with people right around the table: "Oh, they just opened the line! Let's go!" And then you're first in line.

When you are rioting for these tickets, the second thought that came to -- or these ATM cards, the second thing that came to mind was -- and this is horrible to say, and I wonder if I'm alone in this -- you know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year. And I had such compassion for them, and I really -- you know, I wanted to help them, and I was behind, you know, "Let's give them money, let's get this started." All of this stuff. And I really didn't -- of the 3,000 victims' families, I don't hate all of them. I hate about -- probably about 10 of them. And when I see a 9-11 victim family on television or whatever, I'm just like, "Oh, shut up!" I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them. And, again, it's only about 10.

But the second thought I had when I saw these people and they had to shut down the Astrodome and lock it down, I thought: I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims. These guys, when you see -- you know, it's really sad. We're not hearing anything about Mississippi. We're not hearing anything about Alabama. We're hearing about the victims in New Orleans. This is a 90,000-square-mile disaster site; New Orleans is 181 square miles. A hundred and -- 0.2 percent of the disaster area is New Orleans! And that's all we're hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones we're seeing on television are the scumbags -- again, and it's not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It's just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they're getting all the attention. It's exactly like the 9-11 victims' families. There's about 10 of them that are spoiling it for everybody.

From the May 5 edition of CNN's American Morning:

O'BRIEN: You've said, obviously, as you well know, lots of controversial things. For example, let's talk about what you said about the 9-11 families. You said basically this. Let's show -- throw the graphic up there for me. There we go. You said this: "And when I see a 9-11 victim family on TV or whatever, I'm just like 'Oh, shut up!' I'm just so sick of them because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them." You know, people are going to be watching on TV. Is this going to be the tone of the show too?

BECK: Yeah, what an interesting way to take a phrase out of context. First of all, I said that at a fundraiser that I was holding for victims' families for Hurricane Katrina. When you look at it in its entire context, what I was saying was in the context of this fundraiser, you have to stop looking at the people who are complaining on television. In Hurricane Katrina, you have to stop looking at the people that are stealing the televisions because that -- those aren't the people. Those aren't real victims here of Hurricane Katrina. Those are the people that are trying to benefit from the tragedy. And out of -- and the exact quote was, on the 9-11 victims, out of the 3,000 families, there's maybe three or four that you continually see on television that are using the tragedy for their own political agenda. And those people, I'm sick of hearing from because, honestly, I stopped at every stoplight after 9-11 and I dug into my wallet and I gave money until it hurt after there. I didn't have to give money to the 9-11 victims' families. I wanted to, and so did the rest of America. We did our best for them, and I hope we're continuing to do our best for them. But you've got to cut us some slack as well. We made some mistakes.

O'BRIEN: Controversial, this show? Or do you think you're just going to run the gamut from A to Z?

BECK: No, I -- not intentionally controversial. Honest. I mean, whether you like my opinion or hate my opinion, it is my opinion, and I'm not doing it to be controversial. I'm not doing it to hack anybody off. I mean, we really hope to be entertaining. I mean one of the reasons why I think that we're deemed controversial is because I say things -- much of what I say is cloaked in sarcasm and with comedy. And so, those people who are used to a typical talk show look at it and say, "I can't believe he would say that." Well, it's because I was joking.

O'BRIEN: Glenn Beck, good luck on your show.

Network/Outlet
Premiere Radio Networks, CNN, CNN Headline News
Person
Glenn Beck
Show/Publication
Glenn Beck Program, American Morning
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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