On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity became the latest Fox News personality to defend Glenn Beck's statement that President Obama is "a racist," joining News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch and Fox News president Roger Ailes. Discussing Beck's comments, Hannity stated, "When the president hangs out with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, I'm -- can one conclude that there are issues with the president?"
Beck: Obama is a "racist"
Beck: Obama a "racist" who has "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." On the July 28, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, Beck discussed remarks Obama had made about the controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and declared that in his response to the arrest, Obama "exposed himself as a guy" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." Beck added that Obama is a "racist." Fox News senior vice president of programming Bill Shine stated later that day that Beck "expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions."
Hannity latest Fox News personality to defend Beck's comments
Hannity defends Beck: "Can one conclude that there are issues with the president, black liberation theology?" On the March 9 edition his Fox News' show, Hannity discussed Dan Rather's comment that Obama "couldn't sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic." Hannity stated that Beck has "never said anything over the top, like what Dan Rather said." After guest Penny Lee brought up that Beck "called the president of the United States, almost -- referred to him as a racist," Hannity defended Beck, saying: "But wait a minute. Wait, hang on a second. When the president hangs out with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, I'm -- can one conclude that there are issues with the president, black liberation theology?"
Murdoch on Beck's claim that Obama is "racist": "[H]e was right." In a November 6, 2009, interview with Sky News Australia political editor David Speers, Murdoch declared that while Beck "perhaps shouldn't have" said it, Beck was "right." From the interview:
SPEERS: Glenn Beck, who you mentioned, has called Barack Obama a racist, and he helped organize a protest against him. Others on Fox have likened him --
SPEERS: -- to Stalin. Is that defensible?
MURDOCH: No, no, no, not Stalin, I don't think. I don't know who that -- not one of our people. On the racist thing, that caused a [unintelligible]. But he did make a very racist comment, about, you know, blacks and whites and so on, and which he said in his campaign he would be completely above. And, you know, that was something which perhaps shouldn't have been said about the president, but if you actually assess what he was talking about, he was right.
News Corp. spokesman Gary Ginsberg subsequently stated that Murdoch "does not at all, for a minute, think the president is a racist." Politico's Michael Calderone reported that Ginsberg said it's "not the case" that Murdoch shares Beck's view, "but did not comment further."
After questioned by Media Matters, Murdoch appears to deny claiming that Obama made a "racist" comment. On November 19, 2009, Media Matters for America staff member Ben Fishel asked Murdoch if he "could be more clear about what racist comments the president allegedly made." Murdoch said: "I denied that absolutely. ... I don't believe he's a racist." Murdoch did not respond when further pressed to explain his remarks.
Ailes claims Beck said "one unfortunate thing," and "he apologized for" it. During the January 31 edition of ABC's This Week, Ailes discussed Beck's comments and stated, "I don't -- I think he speaks English. I don't know, but I mean, I don't misinterpret any of his words. He did say one unfortunate thing, which he apologized for, but that happens in live television." Ailes did not specify which of Beck's assertions he was referring to, but assuming that Ailes was referring to Beck's claim that Obama is "a racist," the claim that Beck "apologized" for the remark is false. In fact, Beck asserted that "it is a serious question" and apologized only for "the way it was phrased," noting that "living in a soundbite world [is] really a nasty place to live." From the September 22, 2009, edition of @KatieCouric:
COURIC: You stand behind your assertion that in your view, President Obama is a racist?
BECK: I believe that Americans should ask themselves tough questions.
BECK [video clip]: This guy is, I believe, a racist.
COURIC: Are you sorry you said that at all?
BECK: I'm sorry the way it was phrased, because I think everybody has to -- living in a soundbite world -- really a nasty place to live. And it is a serious question that I think needs serious discussion.