On his CNN debut, Beck misrepresented study, mocked guest, made suggestive remarks to CNN anchor
Research ››› ››› ROB MORLINO
On the May 8 premiere of his CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck devoted a segment to misrepresenting and attacking a University of California-Berkeley study for finding that children with more positive personality traits tend to develop more liberal political leanings, while children with negative personality traits more often develop conservative views. Beck also mocked one guest, author Eric Schlosser, and subjected another -- CNN Headline News anchor Erica Hill -- to a number of sexually suggestive comments.
On the May 8 premiere of his CNN Headline News show, which CNN Worldwide executive vice president Ken Jautz has touted as "the perfect next step in the evolution of the Headline Prime line-up," nationally syndicated radio host Glenn Beck offered viewers an idea of just how CNN was evolving. After introducing his program as "just a stupid cable show hosted, quite honestly, by a middle-aged, you know, recovering alcoholic with absolutely no fashion sense," Beck assured viewers, "We're not going to get bogged down in liberal versus conservative or Democrat versus Republican because it's really not left versus right. It's about right versus wrong, and the things that you actually care about." Beck then proceeded to devote a segment to misrepresenting and attacking a University of California-Berkeley study for finding that children with more positive personality traits tend to develop more liberal political leanings, while children with negative personality traits more often develop conservative views. Over the course of the hour, Beck also mocked one guest, author Eric Schlosser, and subjected another -- CNN Headline News Prime News anchor Erica Hill -- to a number of sexually suggestive comments.
Following his claim that the show would not "get bogged down in liberal versus conservative," Beck proceeded to criticize a study by University of California-Berkeley professor Jack Block. The 2005 study, published in the Journal of Research In Personality, identified prominent personality traits in a group of children and then identified their political affiliations decades later, when they had reached adulthood, to determine if there was any correlation. The study concluded that certain personality traits, such as being "indecisive," "fearful," "rigid" and "inhibited," were common among children who grew up to be conservative, while other traits, including "self-reliant," "energetic" and "resilient," were common among those who grew up to be liberal. In criticizing the study, however, Beck falsely claimed that the study had identified children as liberal or conservative while also examining their personality traits, and that it had characterized the conservative children as "easily victimized" while characterizing the liberals as "vital, perceptive, fluent, and bright." In fact, the study did not even attempt to identify any of its subjects' political leanings until they were adults. Beck concluded of the study: "So, to sum it up, according to the even-handed folks at Berkeley: [Former President] Ronald Reagan, frightened, unhappy little wuss; while [liberal filmmaker] Michael Moore, son of Mother Theresa and Jesus." He then further misconstrued the study's conclusions, stating, "I really shouldn't be happy, because I'm a conservative."
Next, Beck hosted author Eric Schlosser, ostensibly to discuss his new book Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food (Houghton Mifflin, May 2006), which Schlosser said is intended to educate children about the food they eat. But while Schlosser discussed his research via satellite, Beck, who was not visible to Schlosser, consumed a fast food milkshake followed by a hamburger, suppressing laughter as Schlosser continued talking.
Finally, Beck introduced Prime News anchor Erica Hill, whose own show precedes Beck's, and explained that Hill would appear each night on Glenn Beck to provide updates on news stories. Beck then told Hill, also appearing on a view screen where she could not see Beck, "You are looking hot in leather." He then said that he was "wearing leather pants right now," before adding: "Oh, no, I'm not wearing pants." Hill replied, "OK, that was definitely more information than I needed." Hill then reported on news that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to President Bush, but before Hill could explain further, Beck engaged in an extended discussion on the difficulty in pronouncing "Ahmadinejad."
Upon hiring Beck to host a Headline News show, Jautz described him in a January 17 Variety article as "cordial" and "conversational, not confrontational," despite Beck's history of outrageous, bigoted, and offensive comments, which Media Matters for America has documented.
From the May 8 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: Hello, and welcome to the first episode of The Glenn Beck Program. My goal for this show is modest. I mean, I don't expect to be on the air as long as Johnny Carson. I would, however, like to last slightly longer than Magic Johnson [whose 1998 talk show was canceled after two months on the air]. But what's the show about? Well, it's not like we're exactly inventing fire over here. It's just a stupid cable show hosted, quite honestly, with a middle-aged, you know, recovering alcoholic with absolutely no fashion sense. I do know that this is the show that was created around my kitchen table. We're not going to get bogged down in liberal versus conservative or Democrat versus Republican because it's really not left versus right. It's about right versus wrong, and the things that you actually care about.
BECK: Now, I'm a pretty happy guy. I have four beautiful children. I have a beautiful wife and, thanks to Oil of Olay, creamy feminine skin. But according to a recent study at the University of Berkeley, I really shouldn't be happy, because I'm a conservative. The study, which followed kids from nursery school to early adulthood, found that children who expressed conservative viewpoints were easily victimized. They were rigid, fearful, and vulnerable. However, kids who expressed liberal viewpoints, well, they're "vital, perceptive, fluent, and bright." So, to sum it up, according to the even-handed folks at Berkeley: Ronald Reagan, frightened, unhappy little wuss; while Michael Moore, son of Mother Theresa and Jesus.
BECK: And then the pink in my strawberry shake is?
SCHLOSSER: Yes, that's not necessarily dangerous. It's just these little beetles that they collect in Peru, dry up, grind up, and it makes a lovely pink color.
BECK: Hang on just a sec. Hang on. Hey, what city are you in, Eric?
SCHLOSSER: Let me see. Hold on. It must be Washington, D.C.
BECK: It's what?
SCHLOSSER: It must be Washington, D.C.
BECK: What is that building right behind you, the big -- that one?
SCHLOSSER: Let me see. I think that's -- that's the Capitol building. That's where the Congress is.
BECK: So your problem is not necessarily with the fast food companies?
SCHLOSSER: It's shared. I think the parents need to know what's going to happen with their kids when they're feeding them certain kinds of foods. But I do have problems with the fast food chains and how they target 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and persuade them to do things that are unhealthy for them.
BECK: No, I don't think -- I mean, I like beef, and I don't need to go to a slaughterhouse. I get it. I mean, we cut the cow up. I understand.
SCHLOSSER: Well, you know, there's cattle raised all kinds of ways. I eat beef. I eat hamburgers. But I'll tell you, there's certain hamburgers I don't eat. And it's good to know if you're going to these stuff, but especially --
BECK: Why aren't you eating it?
SCHLOSSER: If you saw some of these gigantic feedlots and some of these gigantic processing plants -- hey, no one has ever, ever made food this way before in human history. It's not a pretty sight. And the point is this: If children are going to be fed food, it's really important to know where that food came from and what it's going to do to your kids. We have terrible health problems among American children, and the food is a fundamental cause, I think. So I'm not saying we should shut down these places, I don't think there should be restrictions on what they can sell. But I think there should be restrictions on how they target children and how they advertise to children. We don't let companies market to kids. We don't let them sell beer to the toddlers in schools. And this food, you know, is linked to, perhaps, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
BECK: A 15-year-old invented the burger, right?
SCHLOSSER: Fifteen-year-old invented the burger. Brilliant American innovation. Took some meatballs, took two slices of bread, squished them. There you have the first hamburger.
BECK: Now for the credible portion of the program, a look at some of the stories in the news with an actual news person. Every night, we'll be joined by Erica Hill, the anchor of Prime News on CNN Headline News, now at 6 o'clock Eastern. Her show started tonight, just like this one.
HILL: That's right.
BECK: We're newbies.
HILL: It's a big night all around.
BECK: You are looking hot in leather.
HILL: Well, thank you, Beck. I'll be on your show every night just for that.
BECK: Oh, yeah! I'm wearing leather pants right now --
HILL: That's more information --
BECK: Oh, no, I'm not wearing pants.
HILL: OK, that was definitely more information than I needed.
BECK: What did we have in the news today, Erica?
HILL: OK, this one getting a ton of press today, all about a letter. The sender: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The recipient --
BECK: Wait, wait. This is why you're the news person. Say the name again?
HILL: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
BECK: How long did it take you to --
HILL: And, hopefully, in slow motion, I wasn't mumbling through it. It was correct.
BECK: Mahmoud Ahma-heemajad?
HILL: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
BECK: Ahmadimajad. I love --
HILL: I'm going to have CNN International calling in to say that it's wrong.
BECK: We've got -- I mean, let me tell you something, man. We've got Bush, President Bush. You've got Ahma-deem-a-job?
HILL: It makes it a little easier.
BECK: Come on. Anyway --
HILL: Maybe Ahmadinejad is like Bush in Persian.
BECK: Could be.
HILL: What do we know?